March 12, 2019 9:18 pm

NASCAR or Formula 1? Gary O’Reilly, Chuck Nice, and Diandra Leslie-Pelecky Shift the Debate Into High Gear

On this week’s episode of Playing with Science, we try and answer an age-old debate: NASCAR or Formula 1?

For me, and for Gary O’Reilly, it seems like a simple answer. Formula 1 takes us into the future of the automotive industry without having to time travel. It operates on the bleeding edge of technology, science, and motorsport. How can it be beaten? Well, according to Chuck Nice and our expert guest, it takes pure, unfiltered speed and power. And a little science.

Chris Livingstone’s photo of Diandra Leslie-Pelecky and Andy Randolph.

Shown: Diandra Leslie-Pelecky and Andy Randolph. Credit: Chris Livingstone.

That expert guest happens to be Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, PhD, author of Physics of NASCAR, and frequent contributor to SiriusXM Speedway where she helps debunk the misconceptions of NASCAR. She also happens to be a bad-ass scientist as well. With Diandra in the house, we’re ready to take this debate to the track.

You’ll find out why races are won and lost in the corners, not on the straights. We break down the fundamental differences between NASCAR and Formula 1, including the use and dependency on instrumentation. Investigate the importance of weight distribution. Explore how NASCAR and Formula 1 achieve downforce in radically different ways.

Find out why NASCAR drivers rely on “feel” whereas F1 drivers have a team of engineers watching their every move. Discover more about “bump drafting.” You’ll also hear why a disruption of airflow can make a car slow down or speed up.

Learn more about in NASCAR’s “Tire Wars” of the 1970s. Diandra takes us inside the Goodyear lab and explains how they alter tires for each individual track on the calendar. You’ll also hear why Formula 1 races in the rain and NASCAR doesn’t. We get into the physics of crashing and why losing a legend caused NASCAR to make safety their number one priority. Lastly, we ponder the future of NASCAR and Chuck and Gary pitch a show that’s a crossbreed of racing and Star Trek, called, you guessed it, “Car Trek.”

Please join us tomorrow night for NASCAR vs Formula 1 right here on our website, as well as on our Playing with Science channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen