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The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel + Gas + Rubber = Speed Hardcover – February 14, 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
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Top customer reviews
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.
This is a fun title, and a great way to get people solid science content "on the sly." However, as a newer NASCAR fan, I found the book absolutely essential. The depths of this wonderful American sport are difficult to describe to the uninitiated. Many of my friends think the sport is just corporate sponsored cars turning to the left. I love working on my own car, in fact I love all things mechanical, and I love things that go fast; I for one find NASCAR totally enthralling. This book has only deepened my obsession.
As an educator I found this book potentially quite powerful. I recently read Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work and I find it connects with this book in interesting ways. I think the author is interested in increasing science literacy by connecting the concepts to something that students will find engaging an interesting. I think one of the reasons so few students are rapt with the hard sciences these days (besides the fact that they are hard in more ways than one) is that we have done away with serious manual education in the classroom. Students used to learn about combustion and tolerances of certain materials connected with the manual, interesting, and observable phenomena of a car in auto-shop. Shop classes are on the chopping block everywhere, and science classes devoid of real world applications students find interesting become even more abstract and difficult to follow. This book, like Shop Class as Soulcraft, may be part of the remedy for this terrible situation.
Sometimes it is evident that the author is interested in giving science lessons on the sly, as opposed to just dealing with the science of NASCAR. For instance, in the section on paints, she goes into a lengthy discussion on light waves work and how our eyes perceive color. This would be outside scope if the purpose of the book were to simply address the science of NASCAR. If the purpose of the book is to increase the science literacy of NASCAR fans (especially the kids) then it is not outside the scope at all, and is very valuable.
As a teacher (NOT a science teacher) I found this book EXCELLENT. I think it would do school districts a service if this book were placed on summer reading lists for the science department. This is a book students who are NASCAR fans will be drawn to. And it will teach them a LOT if they stick to it.
From the perspective of understanding automobiles, the economics of racing, how the race car is built, and other inside elements of NASCAR this book is incomparable. It will give one a decent overview of the sport and will really increase interest in the races by making the would-be fan much more aware of everything that goes into fielding a winning NASCAR team.
This is a great book. Highly recommended for NASCAR fans of all ages... ESPECIALLY students at the High School (or even bright Junior High students) to help them understand why studying science is so important. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is a physicist and that is noble. But she transcends the rarified air of the academy to also be a good teacher, and that is even more noble in my book.
Most recent customer reviews
The physics don't change and it was interesting to understand the "why".