Science and Speed by Matt Becherer - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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Science and Speed by Matt Becherer

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Posted: Friday, March 22, 2019 12:15 am

In many ways, science and sports have always gone hand-in-hand. In traditional stick and ball sports, the practice of sports medicine and the understanding of the anatomy of an athlete’s body have helped athletes improve over time while allowing fans to comprehend sports in a different way.

Perhaps there is no better example of how science and sports intertwine than auto racing. Not only do NASCAR drivers have to be cognizant of their

conditioning and fitness, but the car itself is affected by science in a number of ways both before and during a race.

Prior to a race, the car is custom built from the inside-out with a large focus on the mechanics of the vehicle and the design of the body. Every detail of the car is designed specifically to help make the car more aerodynamic and go faster.

For example, the setup of the stock car often changes from week to week. Depending on the track, there might be some variation to the chassis of the car, making it looser or tighter on the turns, or a change in tire pressure, allowing for better grip on the track.

The science behind winning a race doesn’t stop once the green flag drops. During a race, drivers and teams will continue to use science to their advantage in an attempt to reach Victory Lane. Just like before the race, pit crews are able to make slight adjustments during the race to help make the car perform better.

For drivers, they focus on NASCAR’s Three D’s of Speed – drag, downforce and drafting – to gain extra speed on the racetrack. These key elements of aerodynamics greatly influence the speed of a racecar, allowing drivers to propel past competitors and shave seconds off their lap times. This season in particular, we’ve seen the importance of drafting, especially when it comes to qualifying. With group qualifying during the first few races, you may have noticed the lead car being run down by the rest of the pack. This is because the cars were able to draft off the leader, preventing him from using the clean air to run faster lap times. 

So without a doubt, science has become a pivotal element of NASCAR. As science becomes increasingly prevalent in the sport, it is important to connect the two and help create an interest in sports science. With science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) serving as part of the core curriculum in education, racing is easily tied in to these subjects and by teaching kids about STEM through the principles of racing, it also helps develop the next generation of kids and students who one day may become the future of NASCAR and other sports.

At Homestead-Miami Speedway, we are always looking for ways to integrate STEM and students into what we do at the track. Just this past week, we partnered with Ten80 Education, a micro-publisher of STEM curriculum to host middle and high school students for the Miami Spring Invitational.

The event brought students to the track from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to compete in numerous STEM-related competitions. More than 125 students from nine schools were present to compete in the regional final.

The teams showcased their STEM knowledge as they squared off against each other in racing and robotics challenges, enterprise presentations, engineering projects and graphic design. The projects that the students took on mirrored that of working professionals, giving students a real-world experience through STEM education.

When it came time for the student to race their remote control (RC) cars at the Speedway’s RC track, it was incredible to see what these students had built. Each team had procured their own custom RC car that they assembled from the ground up. The teams meticulously worked on every detail of the car from the size of the tires to the design of the car’s shell.

Even more fascination was how the students worked together during the races. One student was the driver, while another student would work on the maintenance of the car, changing its tires and tweaking axles. Each RC car essentially had its own pit crews like we would see during a NASCAR race.

In addition to the Ten80 event, we also invite schools to take field trips to the Speedway to learn about racing and how what they learn in school through STEM affects motorsports. We teach the students about the science of racing through hands-on projects and real-life examples that make it easy to comprehend the correlation between STEM and NASCAR.

Through the many great programs and events we do with students, we hope to help NASCAR build a strong foundations with today’s youth. By integrating auto racing into what they learn at school, it may spark their interest in the sport. And maybe one day, some of these kids might just grow up to be the engineer working behind the scenes of one of the race teams you watch on television.

NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND

Sunday, March 24 at 2:00 PM (ET)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Tune In: FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Saturday, March 23 at 5:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Race at Martinsville Speedway

Tune In: FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

The NASCAR Xfinity Series is off this week and will return Saturday, March 30 at Texas Motor Speedway.

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Mar. 22 Fast Lane Friday

Mar. 30 Performance Driving Group

Mar. 31 Florida Track Days

Apr. 5 Fast Lane Friday

Apr. 6-7 Chin Motorsports Car Club

Apr. 13-14 Formula & Automobile Racing Association (FARA)

Apr. 27-28 Championship Cup Series

2019 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 15

Ford EcoBoost 200 Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 16

Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 17

Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship

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