NASCAR in the Driver's Seat (The Science of Nascar)
By Mark Stewart and Mike Kennedy
Lerner Publications; $27.93
48 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0822587378
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Mark Stewart and Mike Kennedy's NASCAR in the Driver's Seat gives kids the inside scoop on what it's really like to be a NASCAR driver. Emphasizing the physical and mental skills that drivers need, the authors cover the mechanics being a good race car driver, from knowing your vehicle inside and out to effective driving practices.
Drivers work out to keep muscles and quick reflexes in top shape, and run to keep up their endurance; special shoes are worn to protect drivers' feet from the car's floor, which heats up dramatically from the high friction of the tires on the racetrack. Beyond drivers' physical requirements, the authors cover the aerodynamics of the car itself, what pit crews do, and how often drivers decide to make pit stops, framing each topic in math and science. For example, the advantages of drafting, when one car follows another very closely to make the most of air flow and lack of resistance, are explored, as well as how and when drivers decide to pass each other safely, whether it's in a turn or on a straightaway.
With a friendly yet informative tone, the book includes a full glossary, suggested reading list, and web resources. NASCAR in the Driver's Seat is part of The Science of NASCAR series. Turning to science teachers for help in preparing the book, the authors have included several hands-on activities for young readers to apply the things they learn in the book to real life. In one activity, to get an idea of how drivers work with their pit crews to make adjustments to how the car handles, it's suggested that the reader walk down the hall wearing a backpack, then give it to a friend who (out of the reader's sight) adds an object to the backpack or in a side pocket that weighs about a pound; the reader is then encouraged to describe what he or she notices and how the pack feels different.
Flush with close-up photos of NASCAR drivers and races, young fans will find lots to enjoy about NASCAR in the Driver's Seat, and they'll also come away with a better understanding of the how and why certain decisions get made by NASCAR drivers and teams. The text is interspersed with explanations of racing terms, like getting hung out to dry; trivia, like the fact that oftentimes NASCAR fans are listening in to the conversation between drivers and pit crews with portable scanners; and quotes from well-known drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. talking about practicing and racing with his father.
Combining learning with entertainment, Mark Stewart and Mike Kennedy engage young NASCAR fans with a close-up look at race car driving that focuses on preparation, practice, and learning, skills that will serve young readers well no matter what they pursue in life. Unfortunately, regardless of how good it is, this slim volume of only 48 pages comes with a price tag of almost $30. More than what you'd spend on an adult hardcover book, and likely beyond most families' book budget, this book is one you'll probably want to check for at the library first.
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