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!
on April 4, 2008
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.
on February 24, 2008
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...
on August 28, 2011
While I got some interesting info out of this book, and the author indeed is good as using analogies to convey ideas, the book doesn't seem to have a target audience in mind. If the book is for NASCAR fans, the book needs an order-of-magnitude more photos and illustrations, and much more exciting stories. Instead, most concepts are just explained in writing, which is akin to explaining how to tie a shoe just by writing -- that just doesn't work unless you already know the info. And while it was cool that author got to hang around a pit crew and driver and visit some NASCAR shops, the stories of the people are dry, suitable for a personal journal maybe but not a book, and most of the people described just aren't interesting or relevant.
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.
on May 29, 2008
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. 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!
This is an entertaining, informative, and very unusual book. The author has actually written two books, one about NASCAR technology and one about elementary physics; however, she has melded them seamlessly into something rare: a serious academic book that is so entertaining that you forget it's serious.
On one level, the book is about how NASCAR race cars are engineered, constructed, and adjusted to enable them to achieve two often contradictory goals: safety and high performance. On another level, the book is about the basic principles of physics and chemistry, including motion, fluid dynamics, combustion, materials science, etc. The uniqueness of the book derives from the way she combines the two, using car racing to illustrate the scientific principles.
I'm a NASCAR fan, and I have a pretty good background in science. I found this book engaging on both of those levels. At the same time, I think it would be a very valuable book for a casual fan-- or even a non-fan-- to read. It makes the sport come alive as something much, much more than just a bunch of guys who stomp on the gas and turn left.
I thought this was a valuable, enjoyable book, and I recommend it most highly.
on July 19, 2008
In her book, "The Physics of NASCAR", author Diandra Leslie-Pelecky takes the reader inside the sometimes ignored world of engineers and gearheads to get a glimpse of the science that is used to make a car travel at speed of nearly 200 mph while still being consistently drivable. Pelecky follows the story into the garages and mobile offices (haulers) of several NASCAR teams to get an up-close understanding of the issues that car fabricators, engine builders, crews and drivers face in their quest to capture the checkered flag at the end of a long week of work.
The book is very much written at an introductory level with no prior knowledge of physics, chemistry or auto-racing assumed. With chapters on nearly everything of any importance related to going fast and doing it safely, Pelecky does an excellent job of balancing the technical side of the topic with stories and descriptions of the real human beings that make it all happen. Nowhere will the reader feel like they have gotten lost in an avalanche of technical jargon and yet most readers will feel as if they have a much deeper understanding of what it takes to run fast.
The only contention I might have is that I would have liked to have seen a bit more information on the specific effects of aerodynamic changes and a discussion of the engineering of tires to provide more grip. These however are minor points that are likely more based on personal preference than any real defect int he book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in NASCAR or auto racing in general and who finds the network spots on the car leaving them wishing for more. You'll find most of that more here in a way that is easily accessible to nearly anyone.
If you love NASCAR, this book will increase your love.
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.
on May 27, 2015
... and then you're fascinated. That's what this book can do for you. NASCAR - if you've ever wondered "What's the big deal - isn't it just cars going round and round a track?", this is THE book.
I won't spoil it for you by revealing anything about it, but I promise you it's a great read. :-)
on November 3, 2013
This book explains the science of nascar from the metallurgy in the frames and engines to how the cars move on the track. It is totally science oriented and not so much a story but if you want to understand nascar(unlike most of the idiots who call in to Nascar radio with uneducated opinions) this is the book for you. You do not need a science background to read this. It is like she takes you from first grade through college science, all as it pertains to Nascar.