National Science Teaching Association: How Does Air Temperature Affect Race Car Tires?

NASCAR race car tires require more air in cooler temperatures and less air in warmer temperatures.

Middle school students identify this puzzling pattern in data and want to know why!

Using readily available materials, students investigate the effect of air temperature on air particles in a closed system. Tracking the flow of energy into and out of the system under study helps students explain why adding air to car tires on a cold race day can make the difference between winning and losing a NASCAR race.


  • Video Clip—Kevin Harvick’s flat tire
  • Investigation Materials
  • One per group
  • Plastic bottle (1L bottles work well)
  • 2 plastic buckets (one hot/one cold)
  • Paper towels
  • Tongs to hold the bottle
  • Timer
  • Bubble solution
  • For Teacher use
  • 1–2 electric kettles

Science Topics
Heat, Physics, Sports
Middle School, Educator
6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade
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