NASCAR drivers called too old and fat for open wheel racing Compare that to the top 15 in the Sprint Cup series, where the average age of the top 15 in the points standings is 34. Three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson is 33; and points leader Jeff Gordon and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth are 37.
The average age of the top 15 drivers going into Monday’s NASCAR Camping World Trucks series O’Reilly 250 at Kansas Speedway was 36. And that’s supposed to be a developmental series for Sprint Cup.
Meanwhile, the oldest IndyCar driver among the top 15 is 2007 series champion Dario Franchitti, at 35, while the 20-somethings include Rahal, Marco Andretti, 22; E.J. Viso, 24; Ryan Briscoe, Danica Patrick and Robert Doornbos, all 27; Will Power, Ed Carpenter, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sarah Fisher, all 28.
“The biggest reason for that, and no knock on NASCAR, ” said Rahal, “but IndyCar is far more physical. Look at speeds at Kansas. We’re going 40 miles an hour quicker. And when you look at it that way, your reaction times have to be quicker.”
An IndyCar weighs 1,565 pounds for ovals and 1,630 pounds for road courses, compared to the 3,650-pound stock cars in NASCAR, but sheer size isn’t everything.
“The IndyCars are much faster, there’s no power steering, there are no air tubes so you can get fresh air,” said Rahal, son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Rahal. “It creates the fact you have to be younger because the physical demands are much higher.
“It’s not like NASCAR, where Tony Stewart can get away with having a big gut. When we go out in these things, especially on the street and road courses, the effort it takes … it is hard. It’s hard enough doing one lap. Now you have to do 100 of those around St. Petersburg …”
The IndyCar series stages seven of its 17 races on the more physically demanding road courses, while NASCAR has just two of its 36 points races on road courses.
“You have to be in top physical shape on the road and street circuits,” said IndyCar racer Ryan Hunter-Reay, 28. “Ovals are physical, but not to the extent of a road or street series. There’s a lot more going on. Left … right … a lot of bumps … up and down through all the gears … In ovals you have G-forces going one way the entire time. On a road or street circuit you’re always changing, front … back … left to right …and it’s just harder on the body overall. At those speeds, the reflexes of a younger driver are usually slightly better. Kansas City Star