- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - NASCAR driver Brian Vickers is an avid reader and science buff who subscribes to “Scientific American” on his tablet. Crew chief Billy Scott went back to school in his mid-20s to finish his degree in mechanical engineering.

Vickers, Scott and other crew members gave several dozen Birmingham teens at the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club a tutorial Wednesday on the “Science of Speed,” stressing how important technology, science, math and engineering are in their field and others.

Vickers is hoping the love for science and math proves contagious.

“If we can change the life of just one of these kids and start them down the path of a math, science, technology or engineering degree, it will dramatically change their life,” Vickers said before the event. “That’s really cool to me.

“To think that 20 years from now, they could be an engineer maybe building something that I hopefully could use, something really cool, making a great life for themselves. Changing the world and bettering this country because they were intrigued about math and science because we showed up here one day and talked to them about it. That’s cool.”

Michael Waltrip Racing specialists Kevin White (tires), Jeremy Sharpley (shocks) and David Cropps (safety/interior mechanics) fielded questions about their areas of expertise at stations around the room. Then the kids posed with the crew around a NASCAR pace car.

Decardious Harris, 13, asked Scott, “How come the car has no doors?”

Answer: It’s about aerodynamics, safety, and the rules.

Mikhail Smith, 15, wanted to know how it feels to drive that fast?

“Going 200 miles an hour, that is like four times as fast as you can go on the highway,” Vickers answered. “It’s an incredible rush.”

High school freshman Alex Slaughter, 15, said he was already a fan of NASCAR - and math and science - before the session.

“It opens your eyes more to what’s really happening behind the wheel, with the pit screw and stuff,” said Slaughter, an aspiring cardio thoracic surgeon. “It was really amazing.”

Vickers told the youngsters about some of the behind the scenes work that goes on with some 200 employees at the race shop, including about 40 engineers.

He also stressed that his parents wouldn’t let him race “if I didn’t have straight A’s.”

Vickers said he still reads 3-4 hours a day. Among his interests: particle physics and quantum mechanics.

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