"All they do is take left turns."

Man, if I had a nickel for each time I heard that statement while discussing NASCAR, I would be taking my own left turn towards paradise.

For as long as I can remember I have been a fan of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR, as everyone knows it.

From the time I could walk I've been watching, and the sport has become my second favorite behind football.

I used to watch the races with my family, rooting for Jeff Gordon's number 24 rainbow warriors Chevrolet. I was a huge fan of Gordon, until he retired in 2015, so now I root for Chase Elliot, who replaced Gordon in the #24 car, but now drives the number nine.

The one thing I found while growing up and talking about NASCAR is a lot of people do not have respect for the sport.

It is easy to make fun of a sport comprised of a bunch of rednecks sitting around watching cars go around a track, while slurping some cold brews, but that is one of the reasons NASCAR is great.

Those rednecks are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and know how to throw a great weekend party.

I have constantly argued that NASCAR drivers are the best athletes on the planet, and still stand by that today.

Yeah, they sit down when they drive, but could you drive a race car mere inches from another one, going anywhere from 150 to 200 miles per hour, in a cockpit where the temperature exceeds 110 degrees? I know I could not.

Any person can pick up a football or baseball, kick a soccer ball, or put on a pair of ice skates, but not everyone can wheel a 3,500 pound machine around a track at high speeds. If they could, you would see more people doing it.

I always love reading about sports stars from other various leagues go for a ride in a NASCAR stock car, and always come out of it saying they have so much more respect for what the drivers do.

ESPN Sports Science did a feature on NASCAR a few years ago, to measure the intensity of the sport using Denny Hamlin — a current NASCAR driver — as a guinea pig.

According to the feature, the temperature inside the car was 130 degrees, while Hamlin's core temperature peaked at 101 degrees. Talk about warm.

Due to those extreme temperatures, Hamlin shed 13 pounds of water weight, in the form of sweat.

Sensors also captured forces in the turns in excess of three "G's," or three times the force of gravity, which is more than 40 pounds of force on Hamlin's neck alone.

Also, Hamlin's heart rate sped up to 130 beats-per-minute, which, according to the feature, is the same heart rate as a marathon runner, except drivers like Hamlin, have to keep that pace up for up to four hours.

The feature goes more in-depth, and you can find it on YouTube if you are interested. It really gives you a greater understanding, and appreciation, of the type of physical and mental conditions the drivers have to be in.

Most people have never been to a race either, but once you go, more than likely, you gain a greater appreciation for the sport.

You can stand near the track and watch the cars fly by you as blurs of color, followed by a stiff breeze, as the hot air hits your face, and maybe even a chunk of rubber off one of the four 75-pound tires the car rolls on.

It is quite an experience.

A little research goes a long way, and with a couple of left turns, you too may have the same appreciation for the sport.