Brief history of racing

Automobile racing essentially began the moment the gas car was invented. German mechanical engineer, Karl Benz, was given credit for manufacturing the world’s first gas car in 1885. Yet, the French made racing official. Just ten years following the invention of the gas car, the French held a prominent race that ran from Paris to Bordeaux and back. Can you imagine that the winner made an average speed of 24.15 km/hour? That’s like the speed of a bike! However, it was actually dangerously fast according to the car’s safety features at the time. Also, in 1895, the US held its first official race that ran from Chicago, to Evanston, to Illinois, and back. Fast-forward 15 years and the speed of racing had more than tripled. Cars were going up to 80.46 km/hour.

France’s ground breaking Grand Prix races began in 1906. Grand Prix, which stands for ‘major prize’, is now used as an umbrella term for any international race, especially the Formula One (F1). The first Grand Prix took place on the public roads of a town called Le Man, and had European entrants only, who were granted three cars per country. However France contested, since they had many car manufacturing companies at the time. The one and only rule for the race was that cars could weigh no more than 1, 000 Kg. Today, there are many rules in racing. The worldwide Formula 1 competition actually stands for rules, with formula meaning rule.    

The Indianapolis 500’s first race was held in 1911 in the US. The Indianapolis race track’s original purpose was as a runway for car manufacturers to test out their newest model’s top speeds and performance. This was essential, since cars couldn’t be tested on regular town roads because of poor conditions. Yet, the Indianapolis Motor Speed Way wasn’t much better and had major cracks in the gravel and tar that caused a dramatic multi-car accident on the first race. There were also two deaths. Another interesting fact about the racing at the time is that they were done without any rear view mirrors, so they kept a mechanic in the passenger’s seat to warn of cars passing by.

Would you have guessed that the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has its roots in the illegal transportation of liquor? Regular cars had been fine tuned for superior performance to evade the law, since up until the 1930’s alcohol was prohibited. They were named stock cars and individuals began using them for racing, starting in 1919, mostly in the South Eastern states. Organized stock racing began in Pennsylvania however it became a formally recognized sport in Daytona, Florida, in 1947.

Racing today


From the earliest races until now, there’s been no slowing down – literally. Remember that 24.15 km/hour average speed? Well, 122 years later, the fastest recorded F1 speed is 14x that amount. In 2017, they did speed trap testing at one of the F1 races and Ferrari timed in at 340.6 km/hour. For those who don’t know, a speed trap is lingo for the straightaway part of the track, where the fastest speed is reached before the turn. Not only do the F1 cars go crazy fast, 2017 saw a total of 4 million spectators.

This year, F1’s scheduled to have 21 grand prix races. That includes ten in Europe, three in the Middle East, three in Asia, two in North America, two in South America, one in Australia. You’ll find some of the highest paid athletes in the world here, like Sebastian Vettel, who’s on a signed three-year contract with Ferrari that amounts to $150 million.  He’s raking in more than most people make in a year in one day, that’s $136, 986.  

Indianapolis 500

The 2018 Indianapolis 500 happened, just days ago, on Sunday, May 27. Apparently 300, 000 spectators turned up to the event, which made for a full crowd. However, in 2016 they experienced the race’s first sell-out for the 100th running of the event, which seated 350, 000 people. Specifically, it was the hundredth running of the race as it exists today. That is 500 miles, completed over a 2.5 mile circuit in 200 laps. That’s a lot of left turns.

The winner of 2018’s Indianapolis was Will Power, who drove a Chevrolet, for the Roger Penske team. Roger Penske holds the most wins for the Indy 500 races and has taken victory 17 times. The driver, Power, won against 32 other drivers and was awarded over $2.5 million for his win. Yet, none of the racers left empty-handed and even last place got $200, 305 just for competing.

The Indy’s sole competitors are Chevrolet and Honda, so the resulting rivalry between the manufacturers is intense. However, it’s a healthy competition, which has ignited great innovation, like direct injection. This was designed by Honda for the race track, before ever becoming a standard feature in regular passenger cars.


This year, NASCAR’s hosting a total of 41 total races and there’s still half left to go. Unfortunately, NASCAR’s fan turnout-rate has been dwindling by the millions over the last decade. In fact, NASCAR’s Daytona 500 just saw the lowest TV ratings that have ever occurred.  Some of the major sponsors that fund the teams have also pulled out, like Target, Subway, Dollar General, and Cheerios. This has significantly decreased funding, since a third of the financing is from sponsorship. Even NASCAR’s official beer partner, Coors Light, dropped the sport and they have yet to find another.

However, there are other indications that NASCAR isn’t doomed. Rather, it’s transitioning. Social media engagements recently increased and in the last year there was a 44% increase in online video viewership. Also, the NASCAR race tracks are owned by two companies, called International Speedway Corporation and Speedway Motorsports, which have benefited from revenue growth and bullish stock performance.

What’s more is that new manufacturers are vying to enter the NASCAR races. Dodge, who’s an important contender that left that sport in 2012, is looking to come back, and so is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Other big names, like Nissan and Honda, have also been suggested for NASCAR. Today’s three competitors include big names, like Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota and their top-paid drivers made around $10 million each in 2017.

Why are people drawn to racing?

What some people may find surprising is that monetary reward is only a small part of why the professional racers do what they do. In fact, many people are drawn to speed. Curiosity for speed stems back to hunter-gatherer days, when there was a fascination with things that could go faster than humans, like birds and anything that had been thrown. Today, we’ve developed the technology to move at incredible speeds and race car drivers, regularly reach velocities of 321 km/hour. So, what’s appealing about going this fast?

Apparently, speed has a strong association with testosterone, which especially feels good for men, since it’s a hormone that men need a lot of. Men with higher levels of testosterone are reported to have lower risk of disease, like diabetes and also have better sex. In fact, women who have higher testosterone are also reported to have better sex. A study in men found that simply driving a race car raised their levels of testosterone more so than if they had been driving a regular sedan. It didn’t matter whether or not the streets had been empty or filled with women and it was really all about the car. So, it’s likely that money is just the icing on the cake for most drivers, who race simply because it makes them feel good.

But not everyone has what it takes to be a professional racer…

Just because someone likes to drive fast, doesn’t mean that they’re going to be any good at it. Apparently, one of the most important traits in a race car driver is that they’re a thrill seeker. Seems obvious, however what some people might not realize is that being a thrill seeker is much different from being a risk taker. Thrill seekers thrive off of adrenaline and endorphins however they don’t necessarily take risks. Taking risks in racing could easily result in fatalities, since every minute detail counts. A successful driver is more likely to air on the side of caution, and only attempt to overtake another car when they’re absolutely sure.

Racers also have great sense of imagery. They can visualize the track and the various scenarios to compensate for lack of practice, which is inevitable, since practice time is always limited. It’s such an expensive sport that race car drivers don’t get much prep and if they weren’t able to visualize, they wouldn’t be any good at racing. Especially, since racing is all about the imagery and feel. The cars are going so fast that the drivers really have to be able to anticipate the road, rather than react.

Drivers are physically fit and they have to be able to endure countless hours in a hot car. In F1, drivers have to withstand cockpit temperatures that are so hot that they lose up to seven pounds in water weight by the end of a race. Their necks, shoulders, and cores are also strong, so they can maneuver the cornering forces for the duration of the race. Forces when cornering can actually make the racers head weigh 5 times its normal amount. Also, fit racers are able to maintain laser-like focus for the duration of the race, which in vital to success.


Racing’s a tale as old as time in terms of the automobile industry. It’s enjoyed by all however has notable beginning in European and American society. Professional racers are among the highest paid athletes and racing is one of the most popular spectator sports there is. It seems that not everyone has the qualities needed to become a professional racer however those that do get to reach speeds at over 300 km/hour in the nicest cars the industry has to offer.