NASCAR will use 45 remote HD cameras to record every pit stop

Shawn Rogers, NASCAR's managing director of business operations, shows one of the remote HD cameras that will record every pit stop and automatically check for rules violations during the 2015 season.

In recent years, NASCAR has made a major technology push to eliminate ambiguity in its rule book and rules enforcement. For 2015, that push will be extended to pit road in all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

This year, NASCAR will use 45 remote HD cameras to record every pit stop and automatically check for rules violations such as the pit crew entering the pit stall too early, equipment leaving the pit stall and drivers pitting outside their stalls.

The cameras will feed into a trailer in the TV compound at each track, where eight NASCAR officials will sit at workstations with two computer screens each, and double-check the penalties. If a violation is found, it will be radioed up to NASCAR race control in the timing and scoring area. Race officials will then enforce the penalty per NASCAR’s rule book. The officials in the trailer will be assigned pit stops randomly.

Shawn Rogers, NASCAR’s managing director of business operations, said the sanctioning body evaluated 18 proposal from 31 companies, including defense contractors and sports technology firms, before teaming up with Hawkeye Innovations as its development partner for proprietary technology.

The new system was tested over the final 11 Sprint Cup races of 2014, when it was used in parallel with the previous system, and performed without incident. NASCAR used to place one official in every pit box, with each official responsible for monitoring stops. Last year, when the number of officials was reduced, there were about 23 or 24 NASCAR officials on pit road during races.

Rogers said the camera-and-computer technology solution will "increase safety, accuracy, consistency and transparency" of officiating. With the new system, there will be just 10 officials on pit road, but they will all be behind the pit wall, increasing safety.

NASCAR officials did not disclose the cost of the new system.

Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR’s vice president, innovation and racing development, said the new system will be in place for next month’s Daytona 500 and that the Sprint Cup teams have already been thoroughly briefed.

"Our plan is to go with the (Daytona) 500," said Stefanyshyn. "And the way that we’ve tried to make sure that we’ve handled this is to have meetings with all the teams, all the crew chiefs, the (pit road) coaches, the drivers, so they all understand this. So I think we’ve done the best we could with this."

Stefanyshyn said automating the process will improve the accuracy of determining pit road penalties.

"How can a human being watch a car on a line and watch six people jumping over and really judge all this, right? Difficult to do," said Stefanyshyn. "They’ve done a great job, but we have the ability to do better."

It’s a new day for the way NASCAR monitors violations on pit road.