Hendrick Motorsports first made their way into the tight-knit NASCAR society in the 1980s, earning a record 12 championships in NASCAR’s premier division. Throughout Hendrick Motorsports’ illustrious history, the team has been consistently recognized for its innovations in the sport.
Now, with all eyes set on Victory Lane, Hendrick Motorsports—including Jimmie Johnson, as he competes in his final full-time season—will kick off the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series with the support of real-time strategic insights they’ve mined using Microsoft technologies into a new Lap Analyzer tool.
Rising to rapidly changing challenges
Finding success in NASCAR means being able to quickly adapt to the sport’s changing rules and ecosystem. In 2017, the landscape changed when NASCAR opened up access to data streams from each car at every race. The data paired GPS location with valuable telemetry information such as speed, brake level, and throttle position. As a result, teams could see precise details about every car at virtually any location on the track. With so much new data suddenly at their fingertips, Hendrick needed a solution for generating actionable insights that would make them faster on the track.
A tool to make winning decisions
Using the Lap Analyzer tool, drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliot, and William Byron can work with their race engineers to determine the ideal point on a turn to pull off the throttle and engage the brakes, or identify the most efficient line around the curve, during any given race.
To take advantage of the opportunity, Hendrick was looking to translate the data into insights they could actually use. The team worked with Microsoft and gskinner to develop a custom Lap Analyzer tool, allowing team engineers to compare a given car’s data streams at different points on a track to understand how a driver’s actions affect lap time—all in real-time.
How quickly you can make the right decision is a huge difference in winning or not.Jimmie Johnson, No. 48, Hendrick Motorsports
It was equally important for Hendrick to be able to share this data securely and effectively with the team’s various stakeholders. Microsoft Teams was able to meet these needs, offering an efficient communication and collaboration system in one place that provides enterprise-grade end-to-end security, ensuring that Hendrick Motorsports’ data, insights, and strategies are protected—essential in a sport where one second can mean the difference between first and fifth place.
Success on the racetrack is a product of having world-class people and the finest tools and technology.Alba Colón, Engineer & Director of Competition Systems, Hendrick Motorsports
Beyond engineers and pit crew members who play a key role behind-the-scenes, Hendrick Motorsports drivers began using Teams to prep for races and pour over valuable data. Jimmie Johnson, driver for the No. 48 car, describes his experience: “I am in the garage stall, from there I can go into the Teams channel and communicate with the dedicated person back at the race shop and within a handful of seconds I can ask the question, get my response and apply that right away."
Zac Brown, race engineer for the No. 24 Car, is challenged with making strategic real-time race decisions while not having access to the car, crew chief, engineers or the driver in person. Quick, clear, effective communication is of the upmost importance for Brown who spends his race days based in the Charlotte Team Operations Center.
Things happen fast at Hendrick Motorsports. Learn how the team communicates and makes real-time decisions.
As NASCAR evolves, Hendrick Motorsports and Microsoft are looking to the future. They’ll continue to collaborate on innovative custom solutions that help the team adapt—from enhanced data analysis capabilities to speech-to-text tools to race simulation upgrades that’ll give Hendrick Motorsports the edge they need to compete for another championship.