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

NASCAR vs Formula 1

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

About This Episode

NASCAR or Formula 1? Would you rather race with your gut or have a team of engineers in your ear telling you the car’s every move? Would you rather mostly go in a circle every race or whip around corners, left and right? On this episode of Playing with Science, our hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice try and settle this age-old debate alongside Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, PhD. Diandra is a physicist, a science communicator, the author of Physics of NASCAR, and a frequent contributor to SiriusXM Speedway where she debunks the misconceptions of NASCAR. 

You’ll find out why races are won and lost in the corners, not on the straights. Discover more about the use, and avoidance, of instrumentation in the cars of NASCAR and F1. Investigate how cars in both sports create downforce in radically different ways. Explore weight transfer, the energy recovery system in F1, and why more weight means more grip. 

Learn about NASCAR’s “Tire Wars” of the 1970s. Diandra takes us inside the Goodyear compound to explain how the tire supplier makes specific tires for each track on the NASCAR calendar. Find out about “bump drafting.” We discuss why NASCAR engines have to be tuned down at big tracks like Daytona and Talladega in order to keep the race safe. You’ll also hear why losing a legend caused NASCAR to make safety its number one priority.

Explore the science that can make a driver spin out without being hit. We muse over how much the weather impacts both Formula One and NASCAR. You’ll hear why F1 races in the rain and NASCAR doesn’t. Lastly, we discuss the new W Series, the new all-women racing league, and debate if it’s a good idea. All that, plus, Chuck and Gary come up with a crossover show between Star Trek and NASCAR called, you guessed it, Car Trek.    

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: NASCAR vs Formula 1.

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