NASCAR is digitizing race day

IDG News Service | Jun 27, 2016

NASCAR is bringing modern technology to race day, using a new system to tie together data on each race so officials can make decisions fast. We got to see it in action at the Sonoma Raceway in California.

In a sport where winning often comes down to thousandths of a second, data matters. NASCAR is going high-tech with new race management software.


At the Toyota/Save Mart 350 something new, a race management system that gives officials a single-screen from which to monitor the racetrack, where cars are, review infractions and share that with teams.

It’s the result of 18 months development that started here, in the inspection tent where NASCAR officials check cars to make sure everything is within the sport’s rules.

This all used to be done on slips of paper, so the sport worked with Microsoft to come up with a tablet based app that collects, stores and transmits the results of every test.

“Giving us data that we never had before, allowing us to see things from the inspection that we were never able to see before, because everything was paper based.”

NASCAR says its inspection times have been cut in half.

So attention turned to the race track, where several independent systems were already in use tracking different elements of the race. A new Windows 10 app brings them all together with powerful results.

“During the race itself i can come down, i can look at info abotu a particular car, their last lap speed, average lap time, all of the pitstops they made”

Cars are shown in actual locations on this screen and officials can pair that data with live video of the race. The app also pulls in video from pit stops so officials can see whether drivers broke any rules and, if so, share that with the teams in realtime.

“If there was an infraction on pit row, we’d explain it verbally, we’ll get back to you monday or tuesday, have a question ‘what really happeneds?’ we’d try to explain it. In this case, realtime video we can get to the race team, hopefully have that communication, here was that infraction, post race meet with the team and here’s why the call was made.”

And it also allows officials to figure out exactly where cars where when race holds were called, perhaps in response to an accident. Sometimes cars end up in the wrong order and the system helps sort that out so when the green flag falls again, no car has lost a place.

It’s a powerful tool for a sport that runs in real time.

“NASCAR is the only sport where every second of every race, we don’t have time to call a time out or a TV timeout, let the officials sit over on the side, we’ve gotta make a quick call and this allows us to do that.”

Like most major sports, NASCAR is keen to use new technology to innovate and bring faces closer to the action. And that could happen in the future if this data is shared online, so fans can keep track during the race. There’s even the idea of employing machine learning to help officials predict things before they happen.