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Technology touches every part of life today. In no place is that more evident than the go-fast world of Indy Racing. TechRepublic’s Erik Eckel recently visted the Kentucky Speedway to see how technology impacts racecar drivers, their teams, and the cars they drive.
Race teams’ transports dominate the garage area and serve as mobile offices. Each trailer is well-equipped and air-conditioned. Many contain their own client-server networks and multiple workstations.
Inside a Kentucky Speedway garage bay, Rahal Letterman Racing crewmembers prepare Danica Patrick’s #16 Argent Mortgage Honda for their first practice run of the weekend.
Immediately upon exiting her Panoz Honda, after completing the race weekend’s first practice session, Danica Patrick reviews test session data with Rahal Letterman Racing engineers. Later, qualifying for the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 IndyCar race at Kentucky Speedway was rained out, and Patrick’s fastest practice laps earned the rookie her second pole position of the year.
Red Bull Cheever Racing crewmembers prepare to connect data cables to the team’s Dallara Toyota in practice. Session data captured by a Pi Research module onboard the car provide critical metrics to the race team’s engineers. Following practice, the team’s mechanics make tweaks in the garage area to hopefully eliminate problematic settings and improve the car’s performance.
TechRepublic’s Erik Eckel interviews Andretti Green Racing Data Acquisition Engineer (also called DAG, or Data Acquisition Geek) Casey Eason. Eason’s responsible for collecting data and telemetry from the team’s Dallara Honda. The race car is piloted by Dan Wheldon, who won the 89th Indy 500 and tied an IndyCar series record with his fifth victory in a season on August 21st, 2005, when he won the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
Race teams rely upon a sophisticated array of trackside technology to maximize performance of their cars. From laptops and wireless technologies to servers, it’s not uncommon for a race team to install and maintain up to three different networks at each race track. Here are a slew of laptops in the Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing pit awaiting use in afternoon practice.
Danica Patrick’s Rahal Letterman Racing crew maintains a Hewlett-Packard, Windows-powered server in the pits. In addition to sharing data among team members, the server backs up critical digital signatures used to decode the racecar’s encrypted radio transmissions. In the event the lead engineer’s laptop fails or requires a mid-race reboot (which could result in the loss of vital data for 12-15 laps), the engineer can quickly turn to the server to maintain communications with the racecar.
Ryan Briscoe brings the #33 Panoz Honda into the pits. Target Chip Ganassi Racing is among the teams that have forged a close working relationship with Microsoft and other technology companies.
Even the Indy Racing League’s own official timekeepers utilize numerous laptops in the pits. Here an Indy Racing League official prepares the morning of the race.
A member of Scott Sharp’s crew studies prepares systems trackside. Sharp and his Andretti Racing Team would go on to win the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300.
Pit conditions are harsh. In addition to smoke, ethanol and myriad numbers of shocks, bumps and jolts, Indy Car teams work in blazing summer heat. Here Danica Patrick exits her pit and returns to racing in the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300.
Trackside monitors are set, ports are live and systems are ready for racing as fans being filling Kentucky Speedway for the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300.
During the race, cars handle much differently in traffic than when racing in clean air. Here competitors circle the one-and-a-half-mile long Kentucky Speedway at over 210 miles per hour.
Rahal Letterman Racing crewmembers study data displayed on laptops and flat-panel monitors in Danica Patrick’s pit.
Crew study data being fed back to the pits by the #95 Panther Racing Pennzoil Chevy. The car, driven by Buddy Lazier, would finish sixth on the day.