The debate over NASCAR and physical fitness
used to focus on whether drivers were athletes.
Today, there's no debating many are. They lift weights, run endurance races, participate in triathlons, play pickup basketball games and maintain healthy lifestyles.
So the better question might be this: Does winning NASCAR races and championships require a driver to be physically fit?
Though the current group of NASCAR drivers is likely its fittest ever, there are holdouts who insist racing doesn't require staying in shape.
"Unless you've got to get out and push the car, it's a different deal," three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart said. "Nobody is having to get out and push these things."
Stewart, as you might guess, is in the anti-fitness
He'd rather be locked in a room with the news media all day than hit the gym for a workout or give up his favorite fast-food meals.
It's simply not necessary for a driver to be in top physical condition, Stewart said.
Clint Bowyer, who finished second in last year's championship, agrees there is no point to getting in shape or lifting weights.
"I don't have trouble turning the steering wheel," Bowyer said. "It's not that heavy; it's power-assist."
But Stewart and Bowyer acknowledge that staying in race shape -- frequently racing outside of NASCAR -- helps them prepare for a variety of situations that could happen while driving on the edge of losing control. It's more important to be mentally healthy than physically healthy, Bowyer says.
"You have to be sharp and you have to be focused, and certainly physical conditioning is a big part of that," Bowyer said. "(But) I've never been tired in a car."
When Bowyer and Stewart hit local dirt tracks in their spare time, it allows them to stay acclimated to the high speeds and quick reactions needed to avoid trouble.
Stewart compares it to an Alaskan being used to the cold or an Arizonan being used to the heat.
"They don't have to work out to do either one of them," he said.
But Stewart and Bowyer seem to be in the minority. These days, it seems as though the NASCAR garage is full of fitness
On the morning of Sunday's Daytona 500 time trials, four drivers -- Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip and Aric Almirola -- woke up early to run a half marathon in freezing conditions, then hopped in a race car to qualify for the most important race of the year.
Johnson, 37, and Kahne, 32, finished fourth in their respective age groups.
That's quite a departure from NASCAR's good ol' boy days, when the thought of drivers as athletes was non-existent and no one would have admitted to training.
At least one old school driver is fully committed to fitness
Mark Martin, 54, has been adding muscle to his already-ripped frame by pounding weights every day -- and tweeting inspirational tips to his followers along the way.
Though Martin stopped short of saying he was in the best shape of his life, he toppled some of his personal weight-lifting records over the summer. He says staying in shape and eating well has left him with the energy he needs to remain one of NASCAR's top competitors.
"I'm feeling better than I ever have about where I am," he said. "I'm really enjoying what I'm doing."
Martin has even pushed the team he drives for, Michael Waltrip Racing, to build what he hopes will be NASCAR's best team workout facility.
camp got a boost over the summer when ESPN featured Denny Hamlin in one of its Sport Science segments.
Doctors had Hamlin swallow a sensor, and they measured his internal temperature and heartbeat while he raced.
His core temperature peaked at 101 degrees, the report said, and his heart had nearly twice as many beats during the race as an endurance runner during a marathon.
Still, Stewart is not convinced that being successful is tied to a driver's physical fitness
"Running a marathon or not running a marathon doesn't make an ounce of difference," he said.