Fans of stock car racing might be surprised to learn that science is as much a secret to success as strategy and a nuts-and-bolts knowledge of vehicles. But Diandra Leslie-Pelecky can tell you things about winning the Daytona 500 that even Richard Petty might not know.

Leslie-Pelecky, a West Virginia University physics professor who leads the University’s cutting-edge nano research initiative, will present “NASCAR: The Science behind the Speed” March 24 at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan. Leslie-Pelecky is the speaker for the institution’s annual Walker L. Cisler Lecture, which has previously featured Dudley Herschback, the Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, and Leon M. Lederman, the Nobel Prize winner in physics. The goal of the lecture is to improve science education.

Leslie-Pelecky, director of WVNano and 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 many realize. She will discuss 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 before becoming the director of the WVNano which works to advance the research environment and diversify the state’s economic base by cultivating and growing vigorous nanoscale research and engineering.

Leslie-Pelecky is 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.



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CONTACT: Gerrill Griffith
WVU Research Corp., (304) 293-3743