Home » FEATURE STORY, NASCAR

The Pace Of Technology Is Quickening In NASCAR

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 23 2015
NASCAR has always tried to keep things simple under the hood. But the times are changing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

NASCAR has always tried to keep things simple under the hood. But the times are changing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

In a technology driven society, NASCAR is faced with a delicate balancing act of determining the proper amount of technology to incorporate into its race cars without overshadowing a driver’s talent.

buganalysisA digital dash under development for use in NASCAR would provide a driver with a myriad of information during a race, some of which must now be conveyed to the competitor by a crew chief or during a test.

“It will provide things to us that we’ve not had before,” six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said. “We’d love to have lap times in the car. You could have a page just for pit road and then take your tach and really spread the hash marks out on the tach mark … and fine-tune and nail it to exact pit road speed. The track bar display could be on there right now on a separate little device somewhere else.”

Currently, very little technology is allowed in the driver compartment during a race. That’s because NASCAR has always preferred to focus on a driver and that person’s talent, not the car’s technology. Even Johnson admits that NASCAR’s cockpits are “pretty tame compared to an F-1 steering wheel or even the sports car stuff I’ve driven.”

Through the years, that has been NASCAR’s appeal to its fans, the blue-collar, working class; those who could relate to its grassroots. Now, however, NASCAR is concerned with attracting the younger fan and to that demographic technology is everything.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings leader William Byron became a regular on iRacing, the premier online motorsports racing simulation Website, before he began on-track competition as a teenager. When he transitioned from iRacing to on-track, two items that surprised Byron the most were the sense of speed and knowing it would hurt if he was involved in a wreck.

The automobile industry now talks about self-driving cars and the dangers of people hacking into a passenger car’s computer. Due to NASCAR’s relationship with the automotive industry, does this mean technology could over-ride a driver’s importance in the sport? If so, would NASCAR have to be concerned with hacking? Even now the sanctioning body and teams must monitor two-way radio transmissions at the track for interference.

Racing has always attracted two groups of fans — those who are technology oriented and those who aren’t. In the past, those whose primary interest was technology gravitated to open-wheel and sports car racing. Stock car racing appealed to those who could identify with the cars that competed and the drivers who performed uncommon feats in them.

“I think as far as technology is concerned it’s a double-edged sword,” Brad Keselowski said. “We certainly need a level of technology if we’re going to engage our fan base, especially the next generation. (But) we can’t allow computers to drive the race cars or this becomes more of a chess match than a race.”

Early in the sport NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and later his son Bill France Jr. decreed the drivers would be the sport’s stars, not the cars. Now, NASCAR must achieve a balance of appealing to a technology-oriented generation while not eliminating driving talent from the equation. Overshadowing driving talent with technology would be detrimental to NASCAR for it would destroy the factor that played a key role in stock car racing’s popularity.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 23 2015
No Comment

Comments are closed.