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Here's how NASCAR is digitising race day

Blair Hanley Frank | June 27, 2016
A new app helps race officials streamline the process of officiating.

Before the cars even hit the track, they're inspected by officials who are recording every infraction in a tablet app, which replaced paper inspection sheets. That app, which was released in 2014 and ran on Windows 8.1, has been updated for Windows 10. NASCAR is also testing its use for paint scheme and decal verification, which has been a time-consuming part of the inspection process.

With digital inspections, officials are now faster at making sure that cars comply. Plus, NASCAR staff can look at inspection findings as they go through the process and after the race has been run.

Microsoft is no stranger to working with sports organizations. The company has a high-profile, multi-year partnership with the NFL to provide teams with Surface tablets for use on the field, in addition to building applications that let fans view detailed player telemetry.

Mike Downey Microsoft press conference
Blair Hanley Frank

Microsoft Principal Evangelist Mike Downey speaks during a press conference at Sonoma Raceway on June 24, 2016. 

Looking toward the future, Microsoft is working with NASCAR to figure out how data collected from races can be used to provide additional context and drama to the experience of watching the events, similar to what it's doing with the NFL.

"So we could throw a lot of stats at people, but that doesn't necessarily make it a more dramatic event. That doesn't make the race more interesting," Microsoft Principal Evangelist Mike Downey said during a press conference discussing the new apps. "The real art is, how do you best present information like that so that you're creating drama, you're creating moments that people really are attached to?"

In addition, Downey said he is looking forward to applying Azure Machine Learning to the applications that NASCAR is using. That has the potential to help officials predict things during a race.

Fred Prendergast, a NASCAR engineer who works on vehicle inspection tools and procedures, said he hoped the inspection data would make its way to fans in the future, so they can follow their favorite driver's journey to the racetrack and see what's happening with his car.


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