Winning With Analytics & Automation

BrandPost By Chris Nerney
May 17, 2017

Racing team’s network engine is revved and primed, thanks to data analytics and automation

Jim Foley, CTO of Joe Gibbs Racing

JGR is a professional stock car racing team, with headquarters in North Carolina. As the company’s CTO, Foley is responsible for running a network that must analyze and transmit information during races in real time — to as many as 40 members of a car’s team, working in multiple locations on a track and at JGR headquarters.

What roles do big data and analytics play in racing and in JGR’s network?

At the race track there are several sources of data we’re pulling in real time. There is the timing and scoring information, lap times, and lap times of our competitors. We also bring in a lot of video and photos for real-time analysis. Then there’s information about the vehicle’s performance, whether it’s engine temperatures or steering wheel angle, which tells us a little bit about what’s going on with the driver.

Can even the most talented drivers compete today without analytics?

Analytics are indispensable. One thing to keep in mind is that racing is a team sport. It’s really important that the crew chief and the race engineers get the right information when they need it so they can make the right decision.

We also use analytics to assess the performance of our pit crews. We collect data such as how fast the crew jacks up the car, how quickly they change a tire, and how fast the gas goes in. All the data is shipped to our headquarters in North Carolina to teams who are monitoring and providing feedback. There’s a dedicated link to get data back in real time.

How has data analytics improved the experience for JGR teams and race car drivers?

Racing revolves around making timely decisions. With our old network there were bottlenecks, and that really limited the way employees could work because of slowdowns in accessing data. We did a complete makeover with Juniper that allowed us to eliminate all of those bottlenecks. It has really opened up opportunities for us to use things like analytics because network speeds are no longer an issue.

What benefits does automation bring to JGR?

We have what I would call a ‘lean and mean’ staff; I can optimize my headcount and hire skilled employees because I’ve got automation helping me with the more redundant and mundane tasks of managing the network. This enables our more skilled employees to focus on the business of Joe Gibbs Racing and not tasks that automation can perform for us.

How does JGR use its network infrastructure for competitive advantage?

We made an upfront and very deliberate decision to invest in our network first and foremost because we knew there were a lot of other projects that we wouldn’t be able to take on without that core foundation being as solid as it is now.

We also saw throughput speeds go up, which we attribute to having a holistic quality approach. It isn’t a mix of different brands of networking equipment; it’s all Juniper gear.