When cars leave the starting line at Sonoma Raceway in California on Sunday for the start of the Toyota/Save Mart 350, they'll be taking part in the launch of a product designed to help NASCAR officials monitor and manage the 110-lap race.
New race management software that NASCAR is launching on Sunday is designed to give officials a single screen to watch where cars are on the racetrack, manage penalties and share information with racing teams about what's going on.
It arose from a partnership between NASCAR and Microsoft that started in 2014. It began with a mobile inspection app that let race officials see whether cars were in compliance with all the rules about how they have to be constructed.
The race management app, which runs on Windows 10, shows track officials a live feed with the locations of all the cars on the track, represented by dots. Officials can pair that with live video of the race. The app also pulls in video footage from pit stops so officials can see whether drivers broke any of the myriad rules for how to refuel and re-equip a car.
The software can also be used to make sure cars are in the right order after a crash or a caution procedure. On top of that, race officials can use it to take a screenshot of what they're seeing and email or text it to someone else, which is helpful for getting key information down to racing teams.
All these capabilities can replace different six different apps and processes that race officials used in the past. Under the old system, some officials worked with multiple monitors to handle all the things they needed to do. The new app should reduce the need for all that complexity.
After the race is over and the cars have been packed up, race officials will be able to return to the management software and replay the entire race. That's critical for conversations with teams that may take place after the race, in which officials can explain the decisions they made.
Not surprisingly, the back end of the system is powered by Microsoft Azure, with an interesting twist: NASCAR is actually using the still-in-beta Azure Stack software to manage a mobile data center it brings to every track for processing of data during a race.
The data center is designed both to help with limited connectivity at some racetracks and to reduce the latency between when data is taken in and when it's displayed in the race management software.
Blair Hanley Frank
Stephen Byrd, NASCAR's director of technology integration and development, shows off the new race management app on a Microsoft Surface Hub at Sonoma Raceway on June 24, 2016.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.