In the days of Roman gladiators, they had a following of fans as fervent as NASCAR fans today, perhaps even more so.

These brawny athletes would disrobe completely, douse themselves in olive oil, and then head out to defeat their competitors. Following their events, they would scrape the mixture of oil, sweat, and dirt from their bodies into a container. This mixture was then sold for fans’ consumption, presumably for the purpose of ingesting a heroic mental attitude, or a body that the Roman gods approved of.

I admit that I am a fervent NASCAR fan, and I show that allegiance in a myriad of ways. I have purchased some odd memorabilia that caught my fancy (i.e. a clock that revs a horrible sounding engine every hour that is so irritating that I disabled that feature the first day); a Chevy primarily because that’s what my favorite driver drives; and if I totaled up what I have spent on NASCAR trading cards it would probably scare me. But if my driver were to begin marketing his perspiration for sale, I would draw the line and decline. Would I buy his sweaty firesuit? Yes. Just the sweat without the fabric to go with it? No thanks. (Perhaps I am not a fan of the magnitude that I think I am.)

I am also glad that safety regulations (as well as laws in every state) would prohibit drivers from racing in the nude. Not all the drivers are built like Carl Edwards, if you understand what I mean. And I can’t imagine what kind of comments that would draw from Tony Stewart on one of his more mischievous days (“Well I’m sure the fans can see why so-and-so performed poorly and couldn’t keep up with me!”). Additionally the dousing of their bodies in olive oil prior to the race might make it easier getting in and out of the car, but it might conduct that seat heat all the more severely. Even spray-on cooking oils would cause the same problem, although their use might open up a few more sponsor possibilities (Pam, anyone)? No matter, I don’t even want to think about the complaints about the heat rashes and blisters from seats that are too hot, not to mention what even Edwards’ naked rear would look like after four hours in a 100-degree car, smashed against a sweltering car seat. (I can just hear Artie Kempner giving frantic directions to the camera man, “The only cheeks I want in this shot are the ones on his face!”)

Yes, our racing warriors have several things in common with their Roman gladiator ancestors, but some things, such as olive oil-soaked naked bodies, cannot transcend into the racing events of today.

Now go rent a copy of ‘Ben Hur’, and try not to wonder when they’ll pit, what constitutes a caution, if the horses will pass post-race inspection, and if they ever figured out how to mess with the wheels for an advantage.