Words by Kay Burk

The Burkster was coping with 101+ air temperatures and around 150 degrees on the track at the NHRA Norwalk race. He spent plenty of time in the air-conditioned tower. Children and the elderly are especially sensitive to overheating and dehydration. And where’s that hat, mister? (Donna Bistran photo)

Whether or not you believe in global warming, there is no doubt that this summer has already been a doozy with June temperatures in the triple digits over much of the U.S. and hotter months yet to come.

Being outside watching a race or driving a vehicle on a boiling track can prove a challenge in these conditions. For those with chronic health conditions such as vascular disease or diabetes, the weather does not have to hit 100 degrees to cause heat stress or even deadly heat stroke.

Oval track track racers have the potential for more problems because they spend more time in their racecars than drag racers. NASA found out that when the astronauts core temperatures went up as little as 1.5 degrees they made up to 80 unrecognized mistakes an hour. Simply stated, when your core temperature goes up you make mistakes. The potential for making a mistake by the driver or pit crew increases the longer the person is in the heat.

We’ve put together some tips to help you cope with the temperatures and keep from hurting yourself while enjoying your favorite pastime. You may have seen these before, but remember that these tips could save a life.


Find safe places. Air conditioning is the No. 1 protective factor. Cool baths or showers or just splashing your face with water can also help lower body temperature.

Don’t rely on fans to keep cool. The breeze will dry perspiration, but it’s the moisture on your skin that you need to dissipate the heat.

Stay hydrated. Increase fluid intake, regardless of activity level. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and drinks with high sugar content because they cause fluids to be depleted more rapidly. Sports drinks help replace minerals and salt lost in sweat. Don't wait until you're thirsty! During strenuous activities, drink 16 to 32 ounces of cool fluids each hour. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.

Eat lightly. No heavy meals, but eat more frequently to keep up your energy. Salads are good.

Take it easy. Slow down and rest often. Try to avoid getting upset. Realize that heat may make you cranky and a bit short tempered. Take it easy on yourself and everyone around you.

Wear light, loose-fitting clothing. Avoid dark colors, which absorb heat, and 100% cotton, which gets drenched with sweat, adds extra weight and can contribute to a rising body temperature. Fabrics that wick away moisture are best.

Stay in the shade as much as possible. This is not the time to work on your tan. Avoid sunburn and ultraviolet light poisoning. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap.