Making New Race Fans, One at a Time

I got a call out of the blue in the office yesterday.  A biomedical physicist/radiation oncologist from UC-Irvine who had just gone to his first NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway had a question about my book, The Physics of NASCAR (which, by the way, you don’t have to be a physicist to read.  In fact, it’s probably better if you’re not.)

How did he get interested in NASCAR?

The American Association of Physicists in Medicine 2012 conference was in Charlotte.  The social event (yes, physics conferences do have social events!) was held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the exhibits piqued his interest.  Returning home, he found a fan among his coworkers and last weekend, he got to his very first race.  And boy, did he pick a great first race to attend.  NASCAR got a couple new fans last weekend — welcome!

I always tell people who can’t see why racing is interesting that they need to go to a race in person because television and radio can’t capture the in-person sights, sounds and smells.  You’ve got to go to the track to understand why people become fascinated with cars traveling in circle.

One of the questions this physicist had was the noise level.  He had brought earplugs, but he was surprised by how many people didn’t have them.

If you’re ever in the NASCAR garage, take a careful look at the over-50 crowd.  Many of them are wearing hearing aids because they spent a lot of time at the track without earplugs.  A racecar easily breaks 120 decibels 15 feet from the exhaust.  120 dB is the level of a jet engine or a rock concert.  It’s also the threshold for permanent hearing damage.  Despite the great advances we’ve made in science, we are still not able to restore people’s hearing.  Your hearing is already getting worse just because you’re getting older.  Don’t give Mother Nature any help.  Bring a pair of cheap foam earplugs to the track and wear them.  Heck, buy a couple  pair and give your extras to anyone you see who doesn’t have ’em.

I know… it’s a thrill to hear the cars fly past, but permanent hearing damage is, well…  permanent.

Bonus Tuesday Geek Joke

You’ve all heard this one, right?

Q:  How do you tell the extroverted physicist at the social event?

A:  He’s the one staring down at other people’s shoes.




  1. I work with Motor Racing Outreach, primarily at Charlotte. Not only am I amazed how many fans don’t wear earplugs, I am even more amazed and disgusted at how many parents bring small children without ear protection. The foam kind cost $2 at souvenir stands. A small price for hearing preservation. It’s easy to carry 4-5 pair in my pocket. Our job, if you can call it that, is to make the fan’s experience the best of all races they attend. A pair of $2 earplugs can help..

  2. It’s not like anything else can be heard at a track, at least a smaller track, so fans might as well rent headsets and listen to the teams or MRN.

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