November 17th, 2016 by Mark J. Burns
The following interview with NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France appeared in the November 17, 2016 edition of SportTechie
The following interview is part of our ongoing Expert Series that asks C-level professionals, team presidents, league executives, athletic directors and other sports influencers about their latest thoughts and insights on new technologies impacting the sports industry.
Name: Brian France
Brian France assumed his position as Chairman and CEO of NASCAR in 2003 from his father, William C. France. The grandson of NASCAR’s founder, William H.G. France, he has continued the family legacy and positioned NASCAR among the most successful sports and entertainment properties in the world. France’s accomplishments have led to dramatic geographic expansion, financial growth and the safest and most competitive era of racing in NASCAR’s history.
Among his achievements, France implemented the Chase format – the first elimination style playoff format in motorsports; negotiated 10-year deals with FOX and NBC – the largest in NASCAR history; secured more FORTUNE 500 partnerships for NASCAR than at any time in history; spearheaded NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program and most recently announced a historic Charter agreement to provide NASCAR owners with financial stability and the ability to build long-term enterprise value for the first time.
1) What utilization of technology in sports has recently blown you away and why?
Technology is changing all aspects of sports including competition, officiating and fan consumption. I am impressed with live games on Twitter. I like what teams are doing with data to analyze every player movement and am paying close attention to wearable technology which can help prevent injury and improve performance.
“Just look at William Byron, 18 years old, who was a top driver this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series . . . William got his start and had great success with iRacing, a racing simulator, before ever even stepping foot in a race car! We are beginning to see other iRacing champs get a look at other rides.” – Brian France
In our case, we can be a great validator of technology because of all the telemetry used to make up a NASCAR event. I’m really impressed with the new NASCAR race management app, which was developed for us by Microsoft. Our Series Directors — NASCAR’s officials — have extremely tough jobs: Managing our races from Race Control with 40 cars on track is complex, with tons of moving parts. We’re now taking multiple data streams and bringing them together on a single screen. It helps us analyze data more efficiently and make informed, in-race decisions which benefits everyone.
2) If you had to invest in one technology that would change NASCAR for the better, what would it be and why?
Virtual reality is extremely exciting. We have the biggest opportunity in sports when you talk about the possibility of bringing fans inside a car going nearly 200 miles-per-hour. Harnessing the power of VR or augmented reality to introduce young people to the sport is a huge opportunity. We’ve seen that in the past, as well as the present, with gaming. Not everyone has the means to race stock cars — we know that — but VR technology can recreate the experience right at home. We think that’s really cool.
Just look at William Byron, 18 years old, who was a top driver this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He just signed an agreement to move up next year to compete in the XFINITY Series, our series for drivers on the cusp of competing at our highest level, Sprint Cup. William got his start and had great success with iRacing, a racing simulator, before ever even stepping foot in a race car! We are beginning to see other iRacing champs get a look at other rides.
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