The 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race was held at Texas Motor Speedway, which could have been a venue for the 2012 Olympics. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
From running to cycling, it’s mostly about human power at the Summer Games, while harnessing the wind and water are also involved.
(Horsepower comes into play the equestrian events, of course, but none of the three disciplines are technically all-out races.)
This wasn’t always the case.
Motor racing was contested alongside the 1900 Olympics in Paris at the Exposition Universelle world’s fair that was going on at the same time, which hosted 17 car and motorcycle races that have sometimes been linked to the Games.
The categories included two-seat cars, seven-seat cars, delivery vans, trucks and motorcycles in both cross-country and reliability disciplines. Drivers and riders were named the victors in the former, while manufacturers claimed wins in the latter.
Despite some claims to the contrary, however, none of the winners were awarded medals, according to prominent Olympic historian David Wallechinski, and the events are weren’t considered an official part of the Games, even as demonstration sports.
Piston power did make an appearance at the London Olympics in 1908, just not on land. Auto racing was on the preliminary program, but didn’t make the final cut, while three classes of motor boating races were held and three medals awarded.
All of them were gold as only one competitor managed to finish each of the events, which consisted of eight laps of a five nautical-mile course in Southampton harbor.
Language was later added to the Olympic Charter that prohibited “sports, disciplines or events in which performance depends essentially on mechanical propulsion are not acceptable.”
That didn’t deter organizers looking to bring the Olympics to Dallas in 2012 from including a proposal to include auto racing as a demonstration sport in their proposal.
Texas Motor Speedway is located near Dallas in Fort Worth. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
“We discussed using Texas Motor Speedway as a venue for several Olympic sports during the summer Games, but we all felt it would be best to use it as a motor racing facility,” Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, who was also a charter member of the Dallas 2012 board, said at the time.
”Clearly it made the most sense to stage an auto race as one of Dallas 2012’s demonstration sports.”
Dallas lost out to New York as the U.S. bid city, so we’ll never know how the International Olympic Committee would’ve felt about the idea, but it’s possible it would’ve been warmer than expected.
In 2015, officials from the global motorsports governing body, FIA, brought up the idea of staging an electric Formula E race during the Tokyo 2020 games. It didn’t come to fruition, but a few doors were opened shortly after that could lead to an event like it in the future.
The latest version of the Olympic Charter published in 2020 no longer includes the explicit ban on motorsports and a series of virtual eSports auto races were added to the inaugural Olympic Virtual Series held this spring alongside baseball, rowing, cycling and sailing.
That’s still a long way from seeing the likes of Kyle Busch, Lewis Hamilton and Helio Castroneves battling it out on an actual track under the Olympic banner, of course, and as far as Wallechinski is concerned, you never will.
“There is zero chance that motorsports will be added to the Olympic program,” he said.