There is an ongoing controversial debate about whether race car drivers are athletes. Now, if you're reading this article, it's safe to say which side of the fence you're on: Yes, drivers are athletes. Some people in the sports community, however, would beg to differ. They tend to lump racers in the same category as profes-sional golfers and bowlers. To us at Circle Track, racers are some of the top athletes in the world. After all, who's to say some 300-pound slob who runs into other 300-pound slobs is more of an athlete than a 180-pound driver who wrestles a race car for 500 miles?
There are many things that define an athlete: strength, stamina, hand-eye coordination, and agility, to name a few. Like any athlete, the better your conditioning, the greater your chances are for success. In order to be the best you can be, you must prepare yourself in such a way as to eliminate as many problems and chances for errors as possible. For example, a physically fit driver has more stamina for those long runs and may be able to react sooner to potential problem situations. He may not become as fatigued as other drivers and therefore will have better judgement and will be less likely to make a driving error that could cost him the race.
Following are two examples of athletes trying to maximize their potential. One driver underwent elective surgery to improve his eyesight while another worked incredibly hard to come back from a devastating injury.
The Eyes Have It
Of all the tools a driver has-stamina, coordination, concentration, smarts, and experience-nothing is more valuable than clear vision and exacting hand-eye coordination.
In most cases, racers can train to maximize their potential. A specialized fitness and weight training program can help drivers reach their peak performance levels. For the racer as an athlete, the potential for increased human performance is huge.
Many aspects of the body can be improved to create a better human racing machine. Flexibility, coordination, and stamina can all be optimized through training. Stronger muscles and bones can be preventative tools against injury. And, a carefully planned diet can give your body the energy it needs plus help to fine-tune your mental capabilities.
But what if you've topped out your body on training and conditioning and there is still something missing? What if you have the game plan and winning attitude to race, but no matter how much you train, you know your body will never be 100 percent? What if your vision is impaired?
In order to become faster and better, technology must improve as must human performance. With new techniques like corrective eye surgery helping to move human performance to the next level, we are now one step closer to the Six Million Dollar Man, RoboCop, and the Jeff Gordonator.
When Greg Albright gets behind the wheel of one of his race cars, there is one thing he must rely on more than anything else: his eyes. The driving conditions may be ideal, his engine may be as strong as ever, the chassis might be right on, but if his vision fails him, he won't have a chance. Thanks to corrective LASIK eye surgery, Albright, a Las Vegas Legends and Grand American Modified driver, now straps in with all the tools and confidence he needs to win. More importantly, when he's flying around the track at 140 mph, he's doing it with perfect vision.
Albright won the Arizona INEX Legends Car Asphalt Arizona State Championship in 1998 and finished second in the Nevada State Championship in 1997 and 1998. Despite his success, his eyes had been a constant problem for him and sometimes kept him from being as good as he would've liked to be.
Albright often had to struggle inside his car with the glasses or contact lenses he wore to correct his nearsightedness