What better place to talk technology than Sonoma Raceway, which is nestled in wine country less than 100 miles from Silicon Valley and the epicenter for many of the country’s top minds in the field of computer sciences.
So perhaps it was no coincidence that NASCAR and Microsoft debuted their first race management app on Friday and that it will be in use this weekend for the Toyota – Save Mart 350 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, and Microsoft’s Mike Downey, the principle architect of the app, were on hand to unveil the new technology during a presentation that lasted about 30 minutes. It’s the latest in an ongoing relationship between the sport and the technology leader that has grown steadily in recent years.
“NASCAR has really put an emphasis, especially over the last 18 months, on technology and new technology and how we can bring things more quickly to the fans, really put them inside the driver’s seat,” O’Donnell said. “But equally as important is how we can work together to be more efficient from a governing standpoint, especially when it comes to race control.”
By bringing six different data categories, such as historical data, timing and scoring, pit road officiating, video replay and car positioning, into one app, O’Donnell said it would allow race directors to relay messages to teams more quickly than the current system where data is analyzed on multiple screens from multiple feeds.
Information can be gleaned during the race as well as immediately afterward, so the goal, at least from a competition standpoint, is that the decisions in what is perhaps the fastest of fast-moving sports can be made more quickly.
For example, if there’s a violation on pit road, NASCAR officials will be able to cut video and send it to the teams, along with a message. This would replace today’s method of relaying the message over the airwaves. NASCAR is counting on this being a more accurate and efficient way to deliver their in-race messages.
The Microsoft Race Management App was built with Windows 10 leveraging the Microsoft Azure platform and the technology giant worked with NASCAR in order to get the look and feel, and practical usage, right.
As with most technology, this is version 1.0 and both NASCAR and Microsoft expect improvements to be made after the app takes its opening laps at Sonoma.
“This first phase is around consolidating operations and systems like this, collecting more information,” Downey said. “As we go forward, we want to help NASCAR better utilize that information that we are helping them collect. … So this is really the first of a multi-staged approach to use data to better inform how NASCAR both runs their races and how they tune their races to create an even better product for their fans.”
Microsoft and NASCAR introduced a mobile inspection application in late 2014 that took that process from being paper-driven into the digital age. And now the race management app is taking the sport’s technology to the next level.