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The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel + Gas + Rubber = Speed Hardcover – February 14, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (February 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525950532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525950530
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

NASCAR may be the number-one spectator sport in the world, but that doesn’t mean we know a whole lot about how it works. How, exactly, do you design and manufacture a car that will move at those tremendous speeds but will handle with precision and, above all, will not kill its driver? What makes a NASCAR car different from the vehicles you see on the regular roads? The author, a physicist and devoted NASCAR fan, explains in clear, simple terms what goes into making a NASCAR vehicle, from design to development to construction to test-driving. Along the way, she introduces us to some of the sport’s key players and teaches us (painlessly) more about the physics of speed racing than we ever thought we needed to know. NASCAR fans will flock to this book. --David Pitt

Customer Reviews

It is a science book so if you like science it is good enjoyable reading otherwise a little dry.
Amy J. Hartley
You do not have to be a NASCAR fan, or even an auto racing fan of any type, or even a scientist or engineer to enjoy this entertaining and informative book.
Charles Bradley
The author, a physicist, is a gifted expositor of scientific principles at a level ideal for the general reader.
G. Poirier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rand Thompson VINE VOICE on February 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book about how NASCAR race cars are engineered to perform like they do. The author is a college Physics professor and the book is written to explain with basic scientific terms and knowledge that the average reader can understand written in a very interesting manner.

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!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on April 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a NASCAR fan by any stretch of the imagination. But this book's title intrigued me. Browsing through it and seeing all the interesting diagrams convinced me that I should buy it and read it. I did and I was not disappointed. The author, a physicist, is a gifted expositor of scientific principles at a level ideal for the general reader. She explains, using many useful analogies (and no mathematics), the finer points involved in building an automobile suitable for racing the NASCAR circuits. The book could just as easily have been entitled "The Science of NASCAR" since sciences other than physics are also involved and explained, e.g., chemistry, metallurgy, aerodynamics, engineering, biology, etc. In addition to the science, the author gives a fascinating overview of some of the dedicated people who are involved in building and racing a potentially winning car as they do their work before, during and after a race. The writing style is clear, authoritative, very accessible and quite engaging. Based on the way this book is written, it can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone, not only science buffs or NASCAR fans.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book would translate nicely into a Discovery Channel series. You know, high-interest, science-to-the-masses kind of stuff. Give it a year; it's going to happen! I am a fan of "The Physics Of.." books, and some disappoint: they can be so thorough [read hyper-mathematic] as to resemble homework; or they can be so simplified they read like a children's book. Most land somewhere in between. Take, for instance,Adair's book on the Physics of Baseball: it's fantastic, but I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone. It contains more mathematics than the average Joe (or Jane) is equipped to handle. But this book, The Physics of NASCAR, follows the Goldilocks Principle: it's just right. Not too pithy, not too watered down. High interest, easy access, entertaining insights. If you like popular science, you'll enjoy this book. Personally, I love the way the author pulls in characters from the NASCAR family. It gives the book personality! She does a great job with the science as well. There were a couple of bobbles here and there, but she covered a LOT of ground. This book is really a text in applied physics (and biology and chemistry), sans the quantitative rigor. I would love to adapt it to my high school curriculum--it would certainly grab my students' attention. If you teach physics at the high school or college level, this book is the perfect supplement to a course on physics for non-majors, or simply a means to raise the interest/relevance level for the concepts you teach. Buy it. If it doesn't work out, then re-sell it on Amazon's Marketplace. Now there's a win-win situation! Hope that helps...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. L. Herschkowitz on May 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved that book, and read it in two sittings and have lost track of my copy, since it is being passed around by a bunch of my colleagues who are some of the best aerospace engineers in the world. Thus it gets my 5 star seal of approval.

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.
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