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NASCAR driver visit highlights human performance research at Air Force Research Laboratory

NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., test drives a simulated vehicle inside the biomedical research lab at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 7, 2018. The research is used for assessing aircrew fatigue and system performance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., test drives a simulated vehicle inside the biomedical research lab at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 7, 2018. The research is used for assessing aircrew fatigue and system performance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

Dr. Adam Strang, 711th Human Performance Wing scientist, applies a sweat sensor patch on NASCAR driver, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. as part of a demonstration on his tour inside the Strong Lab at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 7, 2018. Strang explained how the sweat sensor patch acts as a diagnostic application to monitor cortisol, inflammation and other critical biomarkers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

Dr. Adam Strang, 711th Human Performance Wing scientist, applies a sweat sensor patch on NASCAR driver, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. as part of a demonstration on his tour inside the Strong Lab at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 7, 2018. Strang explained how the sweat sensor patch acts as a diagnostic application to monitor cortisol, inflammation and other critical biomarkers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Airmen in the United States Air Force often encounter extreme physical demands in the performance of their duties and must be in peak physical shape to meet mission requirements.

In much the same way, NASCAR drivers also must maintain top physical condition and demonstrate long periods of endurance during strenuous race conditions.

In the local area for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, Indiana, NASCAR’s rookie driver, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., dropped by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing here Sept. 7 to see how the Wing supports the Air Force as a world leader in the study and advancement of human performance.

"We were happy to host Bubba Wallace and share how we not only work to keep our Airmen safe, but also how we work to enable and enhance their performance in the many challenging environments they encounter," explained Dr. Louise Carter, 711HPW Warfighter Interface division chief. "We have a diverse group of scientists and engineers training our Airmen as well as developing innovative technologies for the Air Force, Department of Defense, and the larger community."

Wallace drives the #43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports this year and during his visit he toured the only human rated centrifuge owned by the Department of Defense. The Wing provides initial and refresher acceleration training for all USAF fast-jet aviators in this human-rated centrifuge. The centrifuge allows students to experience up to 9 Gs, or nine times the normal force of gravity, to teach the effects of G-forces on human physiology and to measure the subject's ability to counteract the effects and prevent G-induced loss of consciousness.

Wallace also visited the Applied Neuroscience Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Lab where a safe and painless method of stimulating the brain using a mild electric current is used to test the theory that stimulating particular areas of the brain can improve performance.

Wallace concluded his visit by stopping in to learn about research being done at the Signature Tracking for Optimized Nutrition and Training (STRONG) Lab where work is currently focused on measuring and assessing cognitive and physical performance bio-signatures in order to generate ways to develop training, supplementation and technology for performance enhancement. Research is addressing everything from cooling technologies to ketone supplementation, to linking cognition and exertion.

“It’s pretty cool to see what goes on behind the scenes with Air Force research,” Wallace said. “To get an inside look at how we’re advancing technology is pretty sweet. I’m blown away by the stuff I was able to do and see. I think the flight simulator at the centrifuge was probably the coolest part, although I can drive much better than I can fly. Thanks to the Air Force for being a great partner to our team.”

The Air Force is in its 18th year of sponsorship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and has partnered with Richard Petty Motorsports for 10 consecutive seasons.