NASCAR: A need for speed and hyperlocal weather forecasts
By Betsy Grider | 3 minute read | February 6, 2018
Every business must cope with the weather, but weather strategy is especially critical for NASCAR, the world’s largest motorsport league. With 1,200 outdoor races each year in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe, NASCAR’s logistics, race control, vehicle performance and fan experience all are affected by the weather.
Our operations teams can’t control the weather, of course, but to optimize races every weekend, they must understand and adapt to it.
Choosing a weather platform
As managing director of technology development at NASCAR, I drove the strategy to feed actionable weather data into the NASCAR ecosystem. Historically, our people used different weather apps and services without settling on a single source. This made it difficult to agree on weather-related decisions. NASCAR’s interests would best be served, we decided, if we could determine which weather platform had the best data, the broadest coverage, and the most accurate forecasts and use it to standardize our operations.
We also considered data presentation. Real-time data is essential to our operations teams, but an event planner needs a different view than a race manager in the heat of competition. Depth of weather analysis and flexibility of visualizations were key factors in our decision.
Our evaluation led us to engage The Weather Company, an IBM Business, as NASCAR’s official weather partner. NASCAR will receive weather insights presented in a real-time analytical dashboard called NASCAR WeatherTrack, developed by the Flagship Solutions Group and powered by the IBM Cloud. Available from any internet connection, the dashboard condenses a massive amount of data into a visualization that’s understandable and actionable. This will help us improve weather-related decisions in every aspect of NASCAR operations.
The hyperlocal advantage
The “aha moment” came when we understood the precision of The Weather Company’s hyperlocal forecasting. With some 2 billion weather data points worldwide analyzed by machine-learning and updated every 15 minutes, short-term hyperlocal forecasts can identify what’s happening at different points on the track. This is transformational for NASCAR.
Consider, for example, a track like Daytona International Speedway, which can have sun at one end, clouds at the other and rain approaching. Temperature, cloud cover, rain start and stop times, wind speeds, lightning proximity, severe weather alerts, and other parameters impact competition from start to finish. NASCAR is a game of milliseconds, and having precise, scientifically validated information will improve the race experience for everyone involved.
Accurate forecasts enhance safety by letting planners schedule races between anticipated bouts of rainfall and storms. Fans, too, will appreciate live weather data that deepens their immersive experiences, such as listening in on drivers’ real-time conversations with pit crews. Now, they’ll be able to track race-day weather conditions at NASCAR.com, starting on the Wednesday before the race right through the waving of the checkered flag.
Begin the transformation
As exciting as this is, we’re just scratching the surface of our partnership with The Weather Company, IBM and Flagship Solutions Group. We plan to use weather data to help with planning and we can fine-tune hyperlocal forecasts by adding personal weather stations around our tracks and on our haulers.
There’s so much to be gained as we analyze weather data to understand what it means for our competitors and our sport. It’s going to be a wonderful transformational journey.