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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Physics of NASCAR

The Physics of NASCAR
How to make Steel+Gas+Rubber=Speed

We read and hear almost every race just how “NASCAR allows total access for it’s fans”, but in most cases that could not be further from the truth. Yes, there is much garage and pit access available and NASCAR fans can see from a distance the inner workings on race weekend, but do they really understand what they are looking at?

Have you ever asked yourself after a NASCAR penalty just what made the part illegal and what was the advantage gained?

Have you ever wondered why ‘your driver’ week in and week out seems to lose time exiting the corners? What are the other teams doing that your team is not?

Have you ever wondered why cooler track surface temperatures cause better grip and faster speeds at speedways?

Many answers to many questions are at your fingertips in “The Physics of NASCAR”.

Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky treats us to a rare glimpse behind the curtain with extensive access to race shops, crew chiefs, mechanics, team engineers, pit crews and more! She has applied her love for Physics and maybe more importantly her ability to speak at a level that every NASCAR fan can understand. She uses complex Physics formulas and translates what is actually going on (both good and bad) on the track that contrast the 15 second explanations of ‘the air was taken off the spoiler from the famous ‘cut away car’ TeVee segments we see each week, by explaining in depth and in layman’s terms what effects take place on various parts of the car when this happens.

This book especially intrigued me personally from the start with a forward from “my driver’s” team owner Ray Evernham and Diandra’s exclusive ‘embedding’ of Evernham Motorsports.

From the first chapter (‘Bones of Contention’), Diandra reveals the inner workings of the NASCAR chassis base, to addressing the advancements of the physics involved in safety innovations, to the final chapter (The Checkered Flag) where she spends her last race weekend with the 19 team (Elliott Sadler) at the Lowes Motor Speedway and the 2007 Coca-Cola 600. She never takes off her ‘teaching hat’, the questions she asked and the answers she received were conveyed in such a manner that I felt I wasn’t being instructed or lectured to, but I was being ‘pushed’ to ask for more. (Fortunately she has continued her work on her blog here and the revelations can continue and grow just as NASCAR does)

Through her ‘embedding’ at the beginning of the 2007 season with EMS, she also was able to reveal some of the personal sides of the ‘faceless’ who lurk behind the scenes and even the airwaves. From ‘Kiwi’ (a shock specialist) calling the race over-the-wall guys ‘locusts’ (“because they arrive on Sunday, eat everything, and then leave”), and noting that Brett Griffin, ‘ever the optimist’ (I consider the best spotter in the business), to the frustration of Team Director Josh Browne revealing much more than just the “driver’s speak” of ‘the guys and team have worked hard all week” that we read in the Dodge post race quotes. (Somewhere residing in the bowels of the innerweb there is still that very tasteless 'For Sale' sign that needs to be destroyed.)

Reading this book is nothing like reading a textbook (although much of it could be used as one), the book has the flow and fluidity of a 43 car field rolling through the “S’s” at Sonoma or Watkins Glen. She brings rocket science, the human element and the pageantry of a NASCAR Race Day altogether and leaves the reader asking for more. This is a great read for any NASCAR Fan, and a must read for any Elliott Sadler fan. If I could only have two books about NASCAR in my possession, this would be one of them. The other? Well, NASCAR doesn’t publish publicly their RULE BOOK!

About the Author

Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is a professor of physics at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she researches bio-medical nanomaterials. Dr. Leslie-Pelecky (affectionately called by some bloggers as 'the Queen of NASCAR Physics') has published widely on her academic research and improving science education at all levels. This is her first book.


* Publisher: Dutton — 2008
* Author: Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
* Binding: Hardcover with dust jacket — 6¼ x 9¼ inches
* Pages: 288 — Black and white illustrations
* ISBN: 9780525950530


Anonymous said...

I got this book for my husband a month ago. He loved it and I didn't know a lot of it was about Elliott. Now you make me want to read it!

Nikki said...

Thanks for the heads up! I ordered a copy today.

Lisa said...

You are so right when you say this is a must read for any Sadler fan. I loved her observations when she was just waiting in the Martinsville parking lot.

It is a perfect mix of classroom and the wonderment of NASCAR racing.

Charlie Turner said...

It's great book. I read a lot of books, but not many great ones. I'm in the process of reading it a second time and learning as much, or more than the first time.