Random Lugnuts: NASCAR to Automate Pit Officiating
What is Random Lugnuts? It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan. The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop: you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
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May 15, 2014
NASCAR is experimenting next season with automated pit road officiating systems. I've already seen one online commentator lament the loss of the "human element" in NASCAR.
Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's Executive Vice President of Racing Operations had this to say about it: “Innovation helps drive NASCAR, and it is central to the sport’s evolution. There are several examples of it improving the sport, none more recent – and impressive – than Air Titan 2.0. The next wave of NASCAR innovation is the pit road officiating technology, which will increase the overall quality of in-race officiating.”
Seems to me the big reason for doing this has to do with the 43 officials they have to drag around with them from event to event. That costs a lot of money, I'd imagine. If they can cut down on that overhead by transitioning to a few people monitoring multiple pit stalls each, by camera, it makes it less costly to put on a professionally officiated race.
While that may not matter so much at the Cup level where it seems there's money to burn, it could have a much bigger impact on the lower-level series, particularly on those event dates where the trucks or Nationwide Series , aren't in the same place as the Cup Series where they can share personnel. As the technology filters down to ARCA and other racing series, just as the automated timing and scoring systems have, it would dramatically improve the quality of their programs while reducing overhead on operations with tight budgets.
But what about the loss of the "human element?" Well, if there's one area of sports that could do without the human element, it's officiating. As with the automated timing systems, technology has eliminated the factors of missed laps and hand-operated stopwatch errors affecting the outcomes of races.
As long as the cars aren't going to be driven by computer, I think NASCAR retains the human element where it really counts: driving the cars and performing the pit stops. As an interesting side note, IndyCar tried a little automation in the cockpit last weekend, and it didn't work out so well for them.
Read the full story at MRN: http://www.mrn.com/Race-Series/NASCAR-Sprint-Cup/News/Articles/2014/05/NASCAR-To-Use-Technology-To-Officiate-Pit-Road-In-2015.aspx
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