Pit Road Technology at "Tip of the Spear'
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR officials will no longer be standing alongside crewmen to police pit stops in 2015, but that doesn't mean the sanctioning body won't be watching what takes place.
A new, technologically driven system that incorporates the use of 45 cameras will feed video of every stop made by every team to a central location, where eight officials will log pertinent information and report any violations.
"This is a great new innovation," Shawn Rogers, Managing Director of Business Operations for NASCAR, said as he previewed the system for members of the media.
"I think it will probably change our sport, put us finally at the tip of the spear with technology.
"Paramount to us, we always want to increase our safety when possible, increase our accuracy ... be consistent and above all these days, be transparent."
How will it work?
Each of the cameras will display two specific pit stalls. Once a car is on pit road, the individual cameras will record its progress as it moves through each area. The use of tracking software and pit road scoring loops identifies and verifies each car.
That same system software tracking its movement will indicate any infractions, such as too many men over the wall or driving through too many pit boxes when entering or exiting the pits based on information ingested before the event.
If there are no infractions logged by the system, one of the eight officials will still monitor the stop, noting the number of tires taken, whether fuel was added and whether any changes (chassis adjustments or repair to a damaged area, for example) to the car were made.
Infractions fall into three groups -- vehicle (such as pitting outside pit box), equipment (leaving pit box with gas can still attached, etc.) and personnel/crew (too many men over the wall; over the wall too soon, etc.).
When the software picks up an infraction, it will be displayed on the monitor where an official will quickly view the stop and either confirm the issue (and subsequently notify the tower) or clear it if it can be determined that no infraction took place.
As an example, Rogers provided video of a driver that stopped just beyond his pit box last year when pitting, and the system flagged the infraction. However, crewmen quickly pushed the car back into its box before beginning to service it. Therefore, there was no penalty, and under the new system, an official has the ability to remove and clear the infraction notation.
Although it was in place during the final portion of the '14 season, the system was tested, but not used for official purposes.
"We ran the system, full parallel testing, the final 11 races," Rogers said. "Our focus was to test out our hardware and software ... train our officials and give them lots of reps with the system … and train our (operations) group."
The expectation is for each pit stop to be viewed and cleared in no more than eight seconds and stops are prioritized -- those that are flagged as infractions are moved to the top of the list for immediate attention. The eight officials work through each stop until all have been cleared, reported when necessary and logged.
Teams will be notified of any penalties that occur once a stop has been completed.
"We're not going to tell anyone of any violations until they leave pit road," Rodgers said. "That's how we do speeding violations now. So we don't get into this person found out a little bit sooner than that person.
That could be different depending on circumstances, he said. "If 35 cars pit at once on the third lap of the Daytona 500, some ... could be told sooner than others."
The use of the technology will change the number of officials along pit road. Instead of the approximately two dozen that policed pit stops last year, only 10 will be in the pits this year. And Rogers said they would be stationed behind pit wall where they can respond to any team inquiries and monitor actions from that side of the car when necessary.
The officiating system will not be used at stand-alone events for the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, according to Rogers.