While I’m on sabbatical (AKA at the beach), enjoy this re-run.


What’s a Jewish Girl Like You Doing in a NASCAR Place Like This?

originally posted June 12, 2012

It’s mandatory to visit something NASCAR when in Charlotte. My friends who live here weren’t aware of this rule, but I gleaned it from the tourism website that fixated on the sport.

NASCAR According to Paula

It’s admittedly odd that I chose to spend the day exploring the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

First of all, because I’m interested in sports about as much as I am in cultivating roach colonies.

And secondly, because my understanding of NASCAR is this: people drive super fast around an oval before massive crowds. Some fans are infield, where they can’t see anything but don’t care because they’re drunk. The drivers make gobs of money because they have cluttered sponsor stickers on their cars and jumpsuits. Women like this sport more than any other, and many have a crush on someone named Junior.

So why am I here? When in Rome… and Americana, baby!

It Doesn’t get more Americana than Moonshine

During Prohibition, folks made their own alcohol. No shock there. In the South it was called “moonshine” and the men who drove it to destinations and (hopefully) evaded police were “bootleggers.”

A successful bootlegger had to modify his car to be fast. Eventually the idea was borne to hold races among the bootleggers…the origins of NASCAR.

The Thrill of the Race

Forty-three cars drive 1.5 miles for 200 laps. The majority of the time they’re going 200 mph, then slow down to zero at the pit stop for 10 tire changes and re-fuels per race and rev back up again. The pit stop: 12.5 seconds. My average pit stop: 15 minutes. Unless of course, I have to put air in my tires.

Some intentional hits of other cars (boys will be boys), but mostly incredible maneuvering on a track that alternates between flat and pitched at an angle of 24%–three stories high. We drove that pitch in a Chevy van going 80 mph with no one else on the track. It was a rush, it was sideways, it would be insane with others on the track, too.

How does this Apply to the Real World?

I’m not good at math. Anyone surprised? No?

I have vivid memories of high school where I’d wonder how some formula or parabola would apply to the real world. NASCAR is a perfect example of how math does. The physics, geometry, and pure algebra are visible everywhere.  If only schools would find examples that fit interests, we could learn math so much better.

The car doors and the track walls are both made of Styrofoam so the cars bounce instead of absorb energy on a hit. Fewer casualties and injuries. Physics, anyone?

Cars go faster with less air in the tires, but too little air and there’s a blowout. You have to consider air pressure when cold vs hot–both of the tire in use and of the air temperature. Formulas.

Math at work in the real world.
Where have you been impressed to find math in places you wouldn’t have thought it to be?

Boom Town

Concord NC, host to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, becomes the state’s third largest city on race day. The influx of staff and spectators is that significant! 160,000 people come to watch.

Charlotte Motor Speedway


 Thank you to the friends and their colleagues who facilitated my complimentary ticket to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.


2 Responses


On my hierarchy, ripping out my eyelashes one by one would be even higher than NASCAR. I admire your, your, — OK, let’s call it what it is, chutzpah — which I assume is Yiddish for “testicular drive” — at taking this on. Meanwhile, enjoy the beach. You’ve earned it.

Jeannine-you are one funny woman!

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