Things can get a little cramped...
Things can get a little cramped inside the cockpit of a race car these days, and with so many things vying for your attention it's easy to find yourself distracted during the middle of a race.
Before drivers can consider racing their car or even their competitors, they have to do battle with different elements inside the cockpit. Whether it's Street Stocks on a Friday night or Sprint Cup on Sunday afternoon, race car drivers all have to deal with the same issues: temperatures way above 100 degrees inside the cars, fatigue, and dehydration.
A driver's greatest enemy is heat. With all the safety equipment that is being worn now-the driver's suit, gloves, head-and-neck restraint systems, and racing shoes-drivers are being exposed to extreme ranges of high temperatures. Even go-karters and Legend drivers are subject to these extremes when their heat races or qualifying attempts are run on a July or August afternoon in the hottest and the most humid part of the day.
A full-body Late Model or Street Stock driver has similar issues, because in these cars, the exhaust systems are usually run underneath the driver's feet and the heat from the engine and transmission is intense.
Avoiding the sodas and replacing...
Avoiding the sodas and replacing them with water and sports drinks can go a long way to ensure that you stay focused inside the race car.
We've all heard stories of race car drivers who have lost significant weight from sweating during a race. I recently competed at Radford, Virginia's Motor Mile Speedway on an extremely warm Saturday. The following Monday, two days after the race, I happened to jump on the scales and found that I was still about 3 pounds off my normal weight
So, what's the big deal about losing a little weight? Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds here and there anyway, right? This type of weight loss is fluid loss from dehydration and it can have significant negative physical effects on the body. Fluid loss can lead to a decrease in the amount of blood flowing throughout the body. This means we have less oxygen reaching our vital organs, and we're much more likely to suffer from impaired concentration, decreased energy, and fatigue-not something we want while in the cockpit of a race car.
A Cool Shirt like the one...
A Cool Shirt like the one shown here will run 45-60 degree water temperatures throughout your shirt to help cool your body temperature and help provide better concentration and focus.
There are a few ways that a driver can combat the effects of heat, become more comfortable, and hence more effective inside of his or her race car. We've all heard it before, but exercising regularly and eating right will do wonders for you. It could be as simple as just running 15 minutes a day and replacing the soda that you normally drink at lunch or dinner with water. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that regardless of the sport, athletes should be well hydrated before competition, drinking at least 16 ounces of fluid (water, juice, sports drinks) a couple of hours before exercise, and another 8 ounces 30 minutes before exercise. This will help prevent dehydration and help sharpen your focus while you're inside the car.
"Cool" Shirt Now once you're strapped into your seat, there are a few products that you can use inside your race car that will help you combat the heat. One of those products is a Cool Shirt. A Cool Shirt is a garment designed with 50 feet of tubing incorporated into it that covers 30-40 percent of your skin's surface with temperature-controlled cool water. The idea is to maintain a safe body temperature. The shirt comes with a quick disconnect so that when you're getting out of the car, you can disconnect the hoses without fear of spilling a lot of water. It also comes with a temperature controller so you can adjust it if you feel yourself getting too cold. Remember, if your body gets too cold, you will start to shiver and the purpose of shivering is to heat the body-not a good combination in more than 100 degree temperatures, and not something you want to have to deal with when you're concentrating on driving.
The Cool Shirt uses a personal cooler inside your car filled with ice and water. Once you've plugged into the quick disconnect, all you have to do is turn on the pump and it will start pushing the cool water through your shirt, reducing sweating and the effects of dehydration for 3 to 6 hours depending on the system.