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NASA Astronaut at Daytona Speedway for 50th Milestones
NASA astronaut Drew Feustel and NASCAR driver Kurt Busch discuss their high-speed professions. Astronaut Drew Feustel discusses NASCAR technology with driver Kurt Busch. Credit: NASA/George Shelton
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Astronaut Drew Feustel gets ready to drive a NASCAR stock car around the Daytona Speedway.Feustel gets set to drive around the superspeedway. Credit: NASA/George Shelton › Larger Image
NASA astronaut Drew Feustel watches NASCAR racers practice at Daytona International Speedway. Feustel previously worked as a mechanic and is a fan of NASCAR. Credit: NASA/George Shelton › Larger Image
Astronaut Andrew Feustel joined hundreds of fans at NASCAR's Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 8. The appearance was in celebration of NASA’s 50th anniversary and the Daytona International Speedway’s 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008.
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Feustel, a NASCAR fan, took laps in an official track vehicle traveling more than 100 mph. That's not nearly as fast as the 17,500 mph he'll travel on his upcoming space shuttle flight.

Feustel also toured the speedway’s garages and talked with pit crews. He teamed up with NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, discussing racing and flying in space. He also met briefly with other drivers, including Casey Mears, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, as well as members of the public and media.

Technology developed for the space program has helped NASCAR drivers increase their performance and stay safe over the years. They wear cooling suits similar to what astronauts wear during a spacewalk. Foam that NASA developed for aircraft seats protects racecar drivers’ necks in crashes.

In addition to participating in the fan festival, NASA will fly three Daytona 500 flags aboard an upcoming space shuttle flight. Speedway officials plan to wave one of the flags to begin the 2008 installment of the Daytona 500, while another will be presented to the winning driver. NASA will keep the third.

Feustel will fly on the space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission will extend and improve the observatory’s capabilities through 2013. That shuttle launch currently is targeted for August.

Katherine Trinidad
NASA Headquarters