news center

Physics professor explains the science behind NASCAR racing March 24

Release Date: March 7, 2011

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. –  “NASCAR: The Science behind the Speed”is the topic for Lawrence Technological University’s 2011 Walker L. Cisler Lecture, which will be delivered by West Virginia University Physics Professor Diandra Leslie-Pelecky on Thursday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lear Auditorium (T429) of the University Technology and Learning Center at Lawrence Tech, 21000 West Ten Mile Road, Southfield.

Lawrence Tech’s annual Walker L. Cisler Lecture is dedicated to the improvement of science education. The event is free and open to the public, and a dessert reception will follow.

Leslie-Pelecky, the author of “The Physics of NASCAR,” will discuss what it takes to make racecars faster and safer, and why driving a stock car is much harder than you might think. She will explain why drivers beg their crew chiefs to make their cars turn better, why turning throws the crew chief’s work off balance, why tires are far more than rings of rubber, and how something as simple as leaving an oil-tank lid slightly askew could lead to a competitive advantage.

A nationally recognized researcher in magnetic nanomaterials, Leslie-Pelecky earned a PhD in condensed matter physics from Michigan State University. Her work, which has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, focuses on the fundamental understanding of magnetic materials and their application to medical diagnosis and treatment processes such as magnetic resonance imaging and chemotherapy.

She was a professor at the University of Nebraska for 14 years and recently became the director of the West Virginia Nano Initiative as well as a physics professor at West Virginia University.

Leslie-Pelecky is also nationally recognized for her work in science education for K-12 schools, future science teachers, and the public.  She has directed projects aimed at improving science education at all levels, supported primarily by the National Science Foundation.  Educational materials on the science of motorsports are being developed for middle and high schools (

Her book, “The Physics of NASCAR,” was excerpted by TIME magazine and has been featured in Sporting News magazine.  She appears periodically on the Sirius Speedway satellite radio program to update listeners on the scientific principles that affect their favorite drivers.

Lawrence Technological University,, offers more than 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Petoskey, Traverse City and Toronto. Lawrence Tech also partners with universities in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.