U.Va. to Host 'NASCAR: The Science Behind the Speed' May 21

May 12, 2009 — "NASCAR: The Science Behind the Speed" is the subject of a free public lecture, to be held May 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Virginia's Old Cabell Hall Auditorium.

Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, professor of physics at the University of Texas-Dallas and author of the book "The Physics of NASCAR," will give the lecture in a user-friendly style for upper-middle-school level ages and up. Attendees need no prior knowledge of NASCAR or science to enjoy and learn from the discussion.

Leslie-Pelecky became interested in NASCAR when she learned of a race track accident involving no engine failure, no flat tires and no collision between cars. She thought she could learn why it happened with a quick Google search.

The search became a book.

Leslie-Pelecky takes her audience behind the scenes at top race shops, onto the asphalt at Texas Motor Speedway and into the garage with Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 19 car and its crew.

Her talk will guide the audience through understanding what it takes to make race cars faster and safer, and why driving a stock car is much harder than most people think.

Leslie-Pelecky's talk is filled with examples of current NASCAR science, including why drivers are asking their crew chiefs to help them get their cars better at rounding turns, how new barriers have revolutionized track safety, why the design of racing tires is a big challenge, and how something as simple as leaving an oil tank lid slightly askew could lead to a competitive advantage.
In her role as a professor of physics, Leslie-Pelecky studies nanomedicine, focusing on using magnetic nanoparticles to improve the efficacy of magnetic resonance imaging, and on making chemotherapy more effective while minimizing side effects.

Leslie-Pelecky enjoys teaching courses for non-science students, emphasizing the fact that fascinating science exists in our everyday lives.

Her popular Web site, www.stockcarscience.com, includes a blog with weekly entries about topical science-related happenings in NASCAR.

Leslie-Pelecky will take questions from the audience and will sign copies of her book following her presentation. Copies will be available for purchase.

Her presentation is part of the 40th annual meeting of the Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics of the American Physical Society.

The lecture poster is available here.

— By Fariss Samarrai