NASCAR Champ Kurt Busch on How He Stays in Shape and What He Eats Before Every Race

Kurt Busch
Kurt BuschJared C. Tilton / Getty Images

If you have any doubt that race car drivers are serious athletes, just hear what NASCAR champ Kurt Busch does to stay ahead of the pack. As told to Marjorie Korn.

 

 

People don’t realize how physically demanding it is to drive race cars. Three hours of enduring G-forces, reacting to other drivers at 200 mph, and talking to my team are all in a day’s work. You’re in one position in a car that can get up to 135 degrees. I have a device that pumps fresh, cool air into my helmet. I imagine my body is in a hot tub and my head’s in the cool autumn air.

Motoring

My routine keeps me performing at the highest level: eight hours of sleep, exercising daily, clean eating, race team meetings, pit stop strategy, reviewing video. Strength training, especially my upper body, is crucial. And so is practicing being intensely, physically focused for hours. The key for me is repetitive cardio: running, biking, step machine, kayaking on the lake outside my house. That plus Pilates, yoga, balance work, stretching—whatever I can do to make myself better. Meditation is probably the next step. I’m open to anything.

Running Hot

The night before a race, I eat a steak or salmon and some pasta. A few hours before start, I’ll have a piece of fruit. And right before, I eat my lucky turkey sandwich. It’s plain and simple, and turkey kind of calms you down. Also some Fritos for the salt. Electrolytes are important for hydration. In the car, I don’t have energy drinks or food. Nothing to distract me. Just water.

Strength training, especially my upper body, is crucial. And so is practicing being intensely, physically focused for hours.

Finding My Groove

My wife, Ashley, is a professional polo player. When she’s practicing, I run laps around the polo field. I run four laps, counterclockwise, like in NASCAR. I envision the track I’ll drive in my upcoming race. This is turn two, turn three. I feel the asphalt underneath me, and I’m focused.

 

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