The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

racing ovals
Load up the Equestrian section of the St. Petersburg Times' look at the ancient Olympic games, and one of the first things you'll see is a big full-color picture of a NASCAR crash. What's one got to do with the other?
Obviously, chariot racing no longer exists - or does it? When it comes to horse-powered thrills and spills, auto racing is the modern-day equivalent to chariot racing, be it Formula One or NASCAR. Today's charioteers receive a greater share of the glory, but drivers are hired to take all the risks. Consider that the fastest chariots were powered by four horses, while an F1 engine produces nearly 1,000 horsepower. Where the Greeks put 40 chariots on the three-quarter-mile hippodrome course, NASCAR puts 43 brightly painted stock cars on the half-mile track at Bristol. And just like the hippodrome, the most treacherous spots on a race track, be it road course or oval, are the turns. The smallest miscalculation by the driver or the slightest touch between two cars can trigger a spectacular crash.
I should point out that the statement about chariot racing no longer existing is questionable if you take into consideration harness racing.

I'm thinking this adds fuel to the fire for a lobbying effort to get auto racing added as an Olympic event. Not that such a move should be good news for NASCAR fans; if racing were to find itself in the Games, it would almost certainly be of the F1 variety. And there's not a whole lot of crossover appeal between NASCAR gearheads and F1 enthusiasts; it's like the difference between Budweiser and Dom Perignon.

By the way, if you want to see some nice graphics on the actual equestrian events from the ancient Olympics, the Times put together some cool graphics.