As a physicist, I love seeing all the physics principles on display during a NASCAR race.
…for drivers it’s a balancing act—they want to keep the pedal to the metal, but they can’t go so fast on a curve that their speed overpowers the maneuvering ability provided by friction. Go too quickly and the friction may not be enough to prevent the car from continuing in its original direction and sliding straight into the wall. Slow down too much and you fall behind the competition.
The way the track is designed can help out here. The turns are banked, meaning they are higher on the outside of the track and lower toward the center. Part of the force of the road pushing up on the car—what physicists call the normal force – assists the frictional force of the tires and helps the car make it around the turn.
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