Diandra Leslie-Pelecky's book The Physics of NASCAR, Auto racing research and technology

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The Physics of NASCAR

March 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is a professor of physics, researching biomedical nanomaterials at the University of Texas in Dallas, USA. As a devoted NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) fan, she is fascinated by the science behind this popular American sport. This intense interest has been channeled into writing what is being haled as one of the most educational and intriguing books that has ever been written about NASCAR – “The Physics of NASCAR“.

Although some may be tempted to dismiss the book as being too technical for the average NASCAR fan to comprehend, this would be a misconception. The author manages to superbly balance the numerous scientific aspects of the sport with its human element and this is reinforced by the appealing stories of her visits to the racing tracks and the development facilities during her research for The Physics of NASCAR.

Professor Leslie-Pelecky was given access to race shops, crew chiefs, pit crews and mechanics to research her book, and she has displayed the ability to translate technical jargon into something that the majority of fans can readily understand. She acknowledges that she did not fully appreciate the extent of the science behind NASCAR at the beginning of her project and emphasizes that her greatest reward has been to become acquainted with an exceptional group of people who are united in their passion for racing. Critics agree that the people discussed in the book as well as the bits of history and general information are very interesting and because these are balanced with the technical aspects of auto racing, the book is both educational and entertaining – even if best read with a dictionary at hand.

The information for the book has been taken from different areas in the United States. For example, in one chapter Professor Leslie-Pelecky talks about tires at a shop in North Carolina and includes the history of vulcanized rubber as a point of interest. In another chapter she examines track safety improvements, such as more efficient barriers, that are being tested in Nebraska.

Interestingly, research reveals that 75 million people are NASCAR fans, forty percent being women. Television broadcasting of NASCAR events reaches 100 countries in 21 languages and NASCAR generates over two billion US$ in sales of licensed products each year. Just with these figures in mind, there is certainly a market for “The Physics of NASCAR” – a book which combines the curiosity of an auto racing fan with the expertise of a physics professor resulting in a book that NASCAR fans are sure to appreciate.

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