The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel + Gas + Rubber = Speed Hardcover – Feb 19 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Having caught, by chance, the broadcast of a multi-car NASCAR crash on television, Nebraska University physics professor Leslie-Pelecky found herself compelled to understand why it happened. Soon, a growing list of scientific questions ("How do you build an engine...that can run at 9,000 rpm for three hours without blowing up?") steer her to meetings with engineers, ground crews and drivers who work together "at the limits of what we understand about aerodynamics, structural engineering and even human physiology." The first part of the book deals with materials, and looks at how combustion, power and aerodynamics work together to maximize speed. But it's the driver and his crew who win the race, and Leslie-Pelecky gets plenty of time with the men behind the machines, joining Ray Evernham's crew to watch him race, and taking a turn behind the wheel herself. Along the way, the nanotech specialist becomes an unlikely racing fan; this fun physics primer should give any NASCAR aficionado a similar appreciation for science.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you don't think NASCAR is interesting, this book will change your mind. There's lot more going on than just turning left and keeping the pedal to the metal.
Each NASCAR track presents different challenges to drivers, team leaders, car designers, mechanics, and pit crews. At the same time, NASCAR is trying to keep the cost of racing down, to reduce accidents and deaths, and to make the sport fairer for all. Professor Leslie-Pelecky goes behind the scenes to explain the technical challenges, and shares anecdotes and vignettes of what racing is like for the technical teams and drivers.
Fans are naturally frustrated if a favorite driver seems to have a slug rather than a race car some weeks. If the weather is changeable, it's hard to avoid a slug. Why? The cars are optimized to so many factors that a switch in the weather makes the car work much less well. Although the mechanics can make lots of last minute changes, there's still a lot guess work involved.
While many books about the physics of something can be pretty dry, The Physics of NASCAR doesn't have that problem. The scientific explanations are short and simple. The human stories about what the science means are rich and long.
I came away very impressed with the brain power that goes into NASCAR winning. My interest was greatly increased by learning more about the non-driving side.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The areas discussed include aerodynamics, materials,engines, fuels, tires, shocks, drivetrain and others, and the author spent time with Elliott Sadler and the 19 team both at the shop and the track to help the NASCAR fan understand how things work like they do. I am a long time fan and also an engineer and there was a lot of info that I can use when I give fans pit road and garage tours at Michigan Intl Speedway. This book will help me explain things to the fans in a easy way.
This would also be a great book for a high school aged race car enthusiast/budding engineer to help them understand how school subjects like Physics can have exciting real world applications. I was a big racing fan when I was taking physics in high school and engineering courses in college and the textbook problems we had did not seem very relevant or interesting. A book like this would have made those subjects a lot more fun.
I own many many NASCAR and racing books and this is one of the best. Highly recommended!
I have to admit that I never was really interested in any NASCAR activity. For me NASCAR was synonymous with huge, loud, beer swilling, funny hated and sun burned crowds. The millions of people that spent their time and a small fortune to watch a few dozen cars roll around a track driven by good old boys trained in the hinterlands of home made moonshine country, with the accompanying noise dust and yelling from the hyper heated crowd, was absolutely not my cup of tea. Something I am sure, is difficult to find around the tracks, at Talladega or other Texas Motor Speedways.
So smug in my opinion, I do not remember what attracted me when I saw the gaudy colored cover of this book, beside the title. Being an aerospace engineer with about as many degrees as stickers on a "Car of Tomorrow" body, I was intrigued by the title. Was there really physics in NASCAR?
The instant I opened the book, I was hooked. The science is not exactly graduate school stuff, which is perfect for this type of popular books, but it refreshed some of my undergraduate memories and it is with delight that I jumped in with both feet and read the book in two sittings. That I was amazed is an understatement, I was even more delighted. A complete new world opened to me. The clear, concise and easily to follow physics lesson by Dr. Diandre Leslie-Pelecky are a delight to read, at least for an avid science reader as myself. It is maybe asking too much of each of these above described NASCAR fans to be excited by basic metallurgy, or the atomic structure of hydro carbons, or an explanation of turbulence and other air flows, but they should maybe be interested in problems like "roof lift", which maybe could cause some mayhem. By the way, I learned how extremely important the safety aspect of the race, for drivers and cars is for the NASCAR management.
From the descriptions of how to built the car, to the physics of aero dynamism, and going through a complete explanation of what happens physically when the rubber really meets the road, I was enthralled, excited and hooked. The biggest surprise was the rigorous rules and severe inspections of NASCAR racing. Even the spoilers are standard and cannot be customized.
Let me inform future readers of that book that the RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology has been proposed and recommended by the FAA, yet still not installed by Boeing nor AIRBUS in their advanced airplanes, but NASCAR has it in their cars!
Now, I know who Elliott Sadler is, and next time I watch a NASCAR race on my TV, I will root for car No 19!
Or, if the book is for high-school or college students learning physics, the book doesn't come anywhere near what would be useful -- not a single equation, too ad hoc, etc.
I am still glad I read the book and I did finish it. For only $3 on Amazon, who can complain. I used the book to fall asleep at night, and it worked great -- I don't mean that sarcastically, I did enjoy learning a bit of NASCAR info and falling asleep. I did find myself sharing some info with friends, but not very much.
Overall, a decent book, glad I read it, worth the $3, but I can see why it (probably) didn't sell very well.