NASCAR has quickly grown into a multi-billion dollar franchise with more things than wins and championships at stake. The sports league has become a nationally-televised battleground where manufacturer bragging rights, team titles, and sponsorship superiority are settled. Sprawling organizations like Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports field race cars into which millions of dollars are spent, and thousands of hours of manpower are invested. The following five advancements have helped buoy and sustain the burgeoning sport and made it uniquely dependent on auto and technological advancements.
Advanced Pit Road Monitoring
With the aid of cameras, motion detectors, and software tracking, NASCAR officials can keep a closer eye on pit stops without having to stand alongside crewmen at all times. This software picks up potential violations and forwards them to NASCAR race control, who will then decide if an infraction has been committed.
Clean, Efficient Technology
For a sport that thrives on high-octane excitement and the smell of fuel and burnt rubber, NASCAR has surprisingly begun to go greener. Fuel cell units are replacing the gasoline-powered generators that provide power for broadcast cameras, lights, and various other functions around the track. In addition, these fuel cell units are not only efficient but safe and only have to be changed once every weekend.
Restrictor plates have been mandated at Daytona and Talladega from the 1980s onward after Bobby Allison’s car spun and flew into the catch fence, with debris tearing down dozens of feet of fencing and injuring several spectators in the grandstands. Its inclusion has been controversial, because these plates limit speeds across the board and have created a form of racing in which cars race in tightly-knit packs, separated by often little more than a second. Drivers must be especially careful while navigating their way to the front, for one wrong move can wreck a good chunk of the field.
The Car of Tomorrow
The Car of Tomorrow is a chassis that was implemented in order to improve competitiveness, while increasing driver safety in the wake of the death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt. Several notable changes include the reinforcement of the roll cage, strengthening of the fuel cell, and the increased use of protective foam and larger crumple zones in order to absorb the impact of a crash. Some of these and other protective items can even be bought with Advance Auto Parts deals and coupons.
The HANS Device
Along with the Car of Tomorrow, NASCAR has made other advancements in the field of safety. These changes include the mandatory use of the Head and Neck Support device, which tethers drivers to the seat, keeping them from whipping forward violently in the event of a crash. The results have been satisfactory, and although several drivers have sustained concussions and broken bones that have sidelined them for weeks, none have died or sustained life-threatening injuries in well over a decade.
NASCAR has evolved greatly since its humble and primal beginnings, into a massive sports entity that leverages technology more effectively in order to promote competition and protect its drivers and fans.