The roar of the engines … the squeal of the tires … and the race to victory lane. It all says, NASCAR!

A race car is much more than steel, gas, rubber and speed. A race car is a science experiment on wheels. Scientists working with NASCAR learn a great deal that can assist in making our own cars more efficient and safe.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored The Science of Speed, an online video series that uses professional car racing to teach basic principles of science and engineering. This series teaches how science and engineering make cars powerful, agile, fast and safe, and how these same principles affect our own cars. NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

nascarThe Science of Speed  written and hosted by Diandra Leslie-Pelecky explains the scientific principles that are so essential to the NASCAR experience.  You can’t win NASCAR races without getting the science right.

The Science of Speed does a great job in capturing NASCAR racing as an unfolding science experiment and making real scientific concepts come alive in an accessible way,” said Steve Phelps, chief marketing officer for NASCAR.  The work done in pursuing The Science of Speed has also emphasized the importance of the following to those of us not driving race cars:

  • Car Safety:  Michael McDowell walked away from a scary crash at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008. This Science of Speed video tells it all.


    Science of Speed Video

  • Grip: There’s one thing every driver always want more of: Grip. Grip is the frictional force that holds the tires on the road. Whether mechanical or aerodynamic, more is always better.
  • Turning: Anyone can go fast and straight: The challenge is turning. It takes more than ten thousand pounds of force to get a race car around Turn 3 at Texas Motor Speedway at 180 mph.
  • Momentum & Time: Increasing the time of a collision from a tenth of a second to two tenths of a second can make a huge difference in the number of G’s a driver experiences. The car, the track, seat belts, and seat construction spread out the force of impact and saves lives.


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