NASCAR star driver Jeff Gordon started his career racing midget cars.

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Training for NASCAR

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The younger you are when you start training for NASCAR or any other racing series, the better off you'll be. NASCAR drivers have incredibly quick reflexes that allow them to drive mere inches from other vehicles at speeds approaching 200 mph (322 kilometers per hour). Such precise driving skill takes years of practice to develop.

You can begin by racing go-karts competitively. If you think go-karts are mere toys to be found at amusement parks, think again. High-end go-karts can reach up to 100 mph (161 kilometers) per hour!

You can also consider midget racing, which features small, fast and lightweight open wheel cars. Midget cars come in progressively larger and more powerful sizes, from quarter midget to three-quarter midget to full midget. This is where current NASCAR star Jeff Gordon got his start [source: Martin, Tuschak].

You can also develop your reflexes and get a feel for the sights and sounds of NASCAR by driving in any of the numerous stock car racing schools or simulators available. If you don't feel like leaving home, you can find a number of NASCAR driving games for your PC or gaming platform. Coupled with a steering wheel and pedal set-up, you can achieve a sight and sound experience close to the real thing.

It may surprise you to learn that driving skill is only a small part of the equation. Your first visit to a track is guaranteed to trigger sensory overload: There's the smell of grease, gas, exhaust and burned rubber; pit crew personnel, drivers and track officials rush about in an organized bedlam; and keeping track of the actual race standings is tough if you're new to the sport.

The best way for you to get acclimated is to immerse yourself in all things racing. Go to the track often and watch NASCAR on television. Read books, magazines and websites devoted to the sport. Hang out at your local track and make friends there. Eventually, the specialized lingo, rituals and processes of the track will become second nature to you.

Think NASCAR is simply driving around in circles? Think that any Joe capable of making a left-hand turn can hack it? Nothing could be further from the truth. To find out how physically and mentally taxing being a NASCAR driver can be, go to the next page.

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