NASCAR is a sport where fans are rooted in nostalgia. All other industries – sporting and otherwise – have used technology to stay relevant and increase their fan base. NASCAR, on the other hand, has not; choosing instead to cloak tracks in the “Good Ole Days” and offer a side serving of nostalgia with fans’ increasingly expensive tickets.
Sales are, of course, dropping. The consumer innovation group launched their first initiative early May 2018 which focused on using technology to better engage “consumers and improve the fan experience”. Relevance and innovation have never been more important to the sport.
A few months earlier in February of 2018, NASCAR’s consumer innovation group was formed with Blake Davidson at the helm. Originally, the group’s origins and motivation began with esports but they are and have been looking to get into other emerging technologies like VR and AR. In today’s world to stay relevant, it’s crucial for organizations and companies to be on the cusp of innovation by helping increase speed of technology and the online experience.
All of this leads back to: iRacing. Increasing fan engagement from home while introducing a new generation to the sport of NASCAR (the target demographic for this racing simulation league is youth ages 13-16) is the goal of iRacing, which mirrors the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The subscription-based simulator and gaming aside, NASCAR is also working to develop AR (augmented reality) opportunities for fans. “Whether it’s speed, distance between cars, lap time, lines that drivers are taking — you think about all of the different data points coming off those vehicles that you can use to engage with the fan at the racetrack and tell that story,” Blake Davidson said, explaining the relevance and importance of implementing AR opportunities within the sport.
NASCAR is in a unique place. The sport is set to develop future drivers through augmented reality opportunities with skills that are, ultimately, useful in the real world. What’s more is that the iRacing program will help develop NASCAR drivers who aren’t from North Carolina, Florida, or California where the top racetracks are.
iRacing president, Tony Gardner, believes NASCAR has actually been on the cusp of innovation in competitive online racing for years. In this press release, Garner stated, “[NASCAR]’s enhanced involvement in esports will be even more evident through the launch of its youth esports series on iRacing. NASCAR drivers have used iRacing to accelerate their development beginning at a young age, as well as to hone their skills throughout their careers.”
Not only will these opportunities and the marriage of technology and NASCAR help build the next generation of championship drivers from all over, but they’ll also help officials and the teams behind the drivers. Thanks to a more involved technological approach, racetime infractions are found in real time so pit stops are quicker.
Though beneficial for officials, drivers, and fans, the technological advances NASCAR is implementing will truly benefit the next generation of the sport’s fans.