Drivers As Athletes
Race car drivers are professional athletes, each with an individual training program designed to prepare
their bodies and minds for the rigors of competing on the racetrack at speeds in excess of 200 MPH.
Because their safety and livelihood are directly impacted by their physical and mental fitness, drivers take
their training seriously.
The Physical Toll Of Racing
Driving some of the fastest race cars on the planet takes its toll
on the body.
- During an NTT IndyCar Series race, drivers experience up
to 5 Gs (five times their body weight) on their bodies while cornering and up to 1.5 Gs accelerating, depending on the
track. This is on top of the effort required to steer the car at
high speeds, especially on the multiple turns of a road or
- The G-load experienced by drivers is comparable to driving
a passenger vehicle with a 40- to 50-pound weight on your
- Heat and dehydration also play a role as most of the NTT
IndyCar Series races are held in hot weather and drivers
must wear multiple layers of protective clothing for safety.
- A driver’s heart rate reaches 85 percent to 95 percent of its
capacity during a race and is comparable to the heart rates
of marathon runners and long-distance cyclists.
Risk Of Injury
The chance of crashing at high speed presents
an obvious risk of injury to drivers, but other injuries
sustained during the normal course of driving the car are
also a part of racing. Drivers’ hands, elbows, ribs, knees
and feet are all susceptible to injury from the stresses of
racing. Keeping in top physical shape helps drivers avoid
injury and remain competitive on the track.
Gaining A Competitive Advantage
Drivers and teams are constantly looking for ways
to gain an edge on the competition. Engineers and
mechanics spend hours working on the cars in an effort
to shave the extra fraction of a second per lap that could
make a difference. Similarly, drivers look at strength and
endurance as one more way that they can gain an edge
during a race.
- Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan are among the NTT IndyCar Series drivers who use triathlons as a
way to stay in shape. Kanaan successfully completed the full distance in the 2011 Ironman World
Championships in Hawaii.
- Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Alexander Rossi enjoy cycling as part of their
NTT IndyCar Series drivers Sage Karam and Josef Newgarden provided solid evidence of drivers’ athletic
abilities at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February 2015. Both drivers went through many
of the same agility drills that college football players did and posted results comparable to some who were
projected as top-10 draft picks.
Jim Leo, president of PitFit Training, an organization that focuses on training drivers for competition, said drivers should focus on a combination of flexibility, stamina, strength, reaction and nutrition training.
“When we train a driver, we want to duplicate or exceed, as much as possible, the stresses they will go through in the car,” said Leo. “That prepares their bodies to handle the stresses when they encounter them on the track.”
Leo recommends using techniques that combine strength and stamina training, including boxing, rock climbing and kayaking. He currently trains several NTT IndyCar Series drivers, including Dixon, Rossi, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball.