Aerodynamics

How Tracks Take and Lose Rubber

The two words we heard most frequently last week in Pocono (after “still raining”) were “green racetrack”. Rain doesn’t just delay racing. When the race is finally run after a rain delay, it’s run on a different racetrack. To get the details of how a racetrack changes from “rubbered up” […]

NASCAR and Electric Cars: A Response to Bill Nye

Bill Nye is getting a lot of press lately by suggesting NASCAR ought to be racing electric cars.  I was rather disappointed with the reaction from NASCAR fans, as many dismissed the suggestion offhand, or offered ad hominem attacks on Nye. Firing off Twitter insults only reinforces the stereotype of NASCAR fans as […]

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NASCAR and Energy Efficiency

It never fails. When I give a talk about The Science of Speed at a University science department (as opposed to a talk for the public), someone will ask “How can you advocate for NASCAR? They’re the biggest waste of gasoline.”

Or something similar.

I’m going to look at this in two ways. People often confuse how much energy is used with how efficiently energy is used. One way to cut back on energy usage is to use less energy, but it’s also possible to use less energy by using the energy more efficiently.

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Daytona, Catchfences and Flying Cars

Track barriers originally were erected to keep cars separated from spectators. In addition to concrete walls to prevent the cars from driving off track, debris-spewing accidents necessitated fencing to contain airborne objects.

Catchfences should have the same properties as walls, but they can’t block the view. Chain link fence is a good compromise: It’s cheap, plentiful, easy to put up and surprisingly strong given its high visibility.

Chain-link fabric is an elastic metal mesh. It can give in two ways: gentle forces cause the mesh to deform. The diamonds stretch out of shape, but when the force is removed, the fabric springs back to its original shape. The fence can also deform by stretching the wires that make up the mesh. A large-enough force will break the wire entirely.

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A Band Aid for NASCAR’s Tire Bleeding Problem

There are three things you don’t mess with in NASCAR: engines, fuel and tires.

Tuesday, NASCAR handed down a P5 penalty – the penultimate penalty on the books – to Ryan Newman’s 31 team. Crew Chief Luke Lambert was suspended six races, fined $125,000, and Newman and his owner Richard Childress were each docked 75 points. The tire specialist and team engineer were suspended for six races as well. RCR is appealing the penalty, but I wager they’ve got an uphill battle.

NASCAR’s made its stand loud and clear in the last few weeks. Tire bleeding will not be allowed. If you persist in trying, they’ll come down hard on you.

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Do Tires Affect Gas Mileage?

When winning means a few hundredths of a second, nothing is too small to be ignored. I’ve talked a lot about energy and the importance of using it as efficiently as possible in racing. Gasoline provides a certain amount of stored (a.k.a. potential) energy. Everyone gets the same amount of energy. Winning lies […]

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