The Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University invites Brazos Valley racing enthusiasts to ride shotgun next week on a unique trip into the science behind stock car racing.

On Monday (Sept. 29), Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, a professor of physics at The University of Texas at Dallas and author of the top-selling book The Physics of NASCAR® will present "The Science of Speed," at 7 p.m. in Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M campus.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is presented by Texas A&M's First Year Program in Chemistry as part of the Chevron Lecture Series, sponsored by Chevron Inc. to illustrate the practical implications of general chemistry concepts for students and the community.

In addition to discussing the basic science that "drives" the cars on the track, Leslie-Pelecky will explain how critical thinking and mastery of the same concepts taught in science classrooms across the nation are as vital to claiming the elusive checkered flag as a high-performance engine.

"Math and science are all about asking good questions and figuring out how to come up with good answers," Leslie-Pelecky says on her Web site, Stock Car Science. "For NASCAR race teams, the big question is usually, 'How do I make the car go faster?' but the crew chiefs, mechanics and driver have to figure out what question to ask to learn whether they should be changing the springs or the swaybar."

It was Leslie-Pelecky's own basic curiosity -- piqued after seeing a wreck in a televised stock car race in 2005 -- that fueled her quest for fundamental understanding, not only of what happened on the track that particular day but, moreover, what it takes to win. Her resulting book details her experiences as a scientist at the crossroads of the race track and the race shop, where she says the difference between winning and losing often boils down to quick and critical thinking.

Leslie-Pelecky says she hopes the lessons she has learned will motivate others, from children to the "perennially curious," to get interested in math and science and apply them to the unknowns and unexplained they encounter in life.

"As teachers of math and science, we often hear students asking why they have to learn things or when they will ever use what we're teaching them," Leslie-Pelecky explains. "We don't always do a good job of answering their questions, or of showing them the excitement of discovery that got us into math and science in the first place."

Tickets, which are required for Leslie-Pelecky's lecture, are available for free through the Memorial Student Center Box Office online or by telephone at (979) 845-1234 or, toll-free, (888) 890-5667. Because seating is limited, Box Office officials encourage anyone interested in attending the event to act quickly.

For additional information on the presentation, the Chevron Lecture Series or Texas A&M's First Year Program in Chemistry, go to http://www.chem.tamu.edu/fyp.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Eric Simanek, (979) 845-4242 or simanek@mail.chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky

    Photograph courtesy of The University of Texas at Dallas.

  • Free Tickets!

    Tickets are available for free through the Memorial Student Center Box Office online or via telephone at (979) 845-1234 or toll-free at (888) 890-5667.

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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