High-speed collaboration at Hendrick Motorsports

After decades of excellence in NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports is tapping new technologies to spur real-time collaboration and ensure success on the track.

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 to NASCAR.

Hendrick Motorsports is looking to kick off the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series with resounding success with the support of streamlined real-time collaboration between the track and the Hendrick Motorsports Team Operations Center (TOC)—all made possible through adopting innovative technologies powered by Microsoft.

Rising to rapidly changing challenges

Finding this kind of success in NASCAR means being able to quickly adapt to the sport’s changing rules and ecosystem. For example, at the end of the 2017 season, NASCAR began setting a hard limit on the number of people each team could have on the track. This was to ensure parity between larger and smaller teams—a change that was vital to NASCAR’s long-term growth. But for Hendrick, this meant reducing their personnel from over 100 to only 12 road crew and 5 pit crew members per car, which had a massive operational impact.

The main challenge with this dramatic reduction was maintaining seamless race operations, as well as communication and collaboration between different team members on and off the track. Hendrick invested in building the Team Operations Center to give their race engineers a state-of-the-art facility in their Concord, NC headquarters. And partnering with Microsoft allowed them to create a communication hub that enabled teams, both at the track and across the organization, to collaborate in real-time.

We needed to be able to analyze the data quickly and use the information to make better decisions in order to win races.

- Keith Rodden, TOC Project Manager, Hendrick Motorsports

Different needs, different styles, one solution

The hub had to account for the fact that team members had vastly different communication needs. While engineers at Hendrick’s TOC prefer to communicate via direct message, pit crew members at the track (who wear gloves that prohibit them from typing or texting) prefer to communicate by voice. Microsoft Teams was able to meet these varied needs, offering an efficient communication and collaboration system that allows for workplace chat, notes, meetings, and file sharing in one place. Teams has also been able to provide enterprise-grade end-to-end security, ensuring that Hendrick Motorsports’ data, insights, and strategies are protected—essential in an industry where one second can mean the difference between first and fifth place.

Looking to the future

Heading into the 2019 NASCAR season, Microsoft and Hendrick Motorsports are looking to take the Teams communication platform to new heights by integrating custom bots that analyze work streams and provide notifications to team members during races. Microsoft also aims to take Hendrick’s varied data sets—gleaned from historical track statistics, car performance inputs, live race feeds provided from NASCAR, etc.—to design a data architecture framework and apply machine learning and AI applications to uncover insights in real-time.

As NASCAR continues to evolve, Hendrick Motorsports has its sights set on innovative custom solutions that help them adapt in an ever-changing sport.