Anyone who’s ever been fortunate enough to get a garage pass and a behind the scenes look at a NASCAR race knows all about tech inspection.
Before every race, the cars line up one after another, pushed steadily toward the tech inspection garage by pit crew members. Each is anxiously awaiting their turn under scrutiny to ensure that no race team is trying to bend the rules to their advantage.
The lineup snakes around the garage, some of the world’s fastest race cars stacked up bumper to bumper and moving at a snail’s pace, much like rush hour traffic on the interstate.
The objective of tech inspection is to assure that all involved in NASCAR are playing by the same code of conduct. After all, there’s a reason why it’s known as stock car racing.
Just as the value of tech inspection keeps NASCAR teams on the up and up, NASCAR has also come to recognize the value of tech in keeping the grandstands filled with new fans from a younger demographic, and their race teams populated with young, fertile minds who are schooled in cutting edge technology.
In a sport where the blink of an eye can measure the difference between doing burnouts on Victory Lane, or finishing up the track as an back-filling also ran, that concept is not lost on the powers that be who run the world’s No. 1 stock car racing circuit.
They might be viewed as good ol’ boys but these NASCAR race teams are searching for that same extra second of speed that wins on race day just as much as their open-wheel counterparts in Formula One and IndyCar.
NASCAR Technical Institute
Part of Universal Technical Institute’s Mooresville campus, the NASCAR Technical Institute is the exclusive educational provider for NASCAR. UTI is the only campus in the country to offer NASCAR-endorsed training.
“Modern racing takes more than just commitment,” former NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Bobby Allison said. “In today’s world, you have to get an education and know technology.
“I’m proud that my great-nephew graduated from NASCAR Tech, where he learned what he needs to find a niche and succeed in racing.”
NASCAR Tech’s Mooresville, N.C. campus offers the standard Universal Technical Institute core automotive training program, with an optional 15-week elective to prepare students seeking out a career in motorsports. This 15-week elective trains students in everything from engines, fabrication and welding, to aerodynamics and pit crew essentials.
Through their elite Spec Engine program, select elite-level students are given the opportunity to build engines that will compete in NASCAR-sanctioned races. Last year, students were offered the chance to work on Roush Yates NASCAR Ford FR9 engines. They power all Ford Performance race teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series
Students learn the requirements necessary to keep a car on the track, including what equipment goes in pit boxes, chassis options, fueling, cooling, and dynamometers. Students will also get a chance to work with the state-of-the-industry Lincoln Electric welding equipment and race car setup technologies.
Instructors include former NASCAR engine builders, car builders, crew chiefs and other specialists from the sport.
It’s Just Like Being There
Not everyone gets the chance to attend a NASCAR race in person but the sport is now deploying immersive tech that enables fans to feel as though they actually are at the track.
NASCAR is creating content in both live and on-demand virtual reality and 360-degree video, offering fans the perspective of virtually being inside the facility where that week’s race is taking place.
During a race last year at Miami’s Homestead Speedway, NASCAR provided live streaming of the pre-race drivers meeting. They also offered a 360-video tour of the NASCAR garage, enabling viewers to see cars up close and from almost every angle imaginable.
This 360-degree access was offered for viewing on the NASCAR website, as well as through the NASCAR mobile app, and on Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Long term plans call for the placing of 360 video technology inside of race cars during an actual race.
The newest buzz in sports arenas across North America is augmented reality. This technology is completely changing the world of the selfie. If the real Kyle Busch or Martin Truax aren’t available to pose with you for a selfie, no worries. The AR version of both drivers will be.
AR is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities. This can include visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory options. It’s the same technology that enables people to play Pokemon Go on their smartphones.
This technology superimposes an image onto a user’s view of the real world. Utilizing AR, race fans can insert the 3D image of a driver or a race car into their realm and make it part of their picture.
Alexa, Open NASCAR
Another method of engaging their more tech-savvy fanbase that NASCAR is accessing is through Amazon’s voice-activated device Alexa and Google Voice.
Live race updates are available through these sources, as well as past racing performances and driver standings. There are also NASCAR podcasts uploaded, as well as NASCAR news updates.