NASCAR provides a proving ground for Microsoft
June 22, 2015, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
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Microsoft's involvement in NASCAR, which has grown steadily in recent years, has taken a giant step forward with Monday's announcement that the Fortune 500 company is now an Official Technology Partner of NASCAR as well as a major technology partner of Hendrick Motorsports.
According to officials with both the sanctioning body and the Redmond, Washington-based tech company, NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports will adopt the Windows 10 and Microsoft Azure cloud computing platforms "to deliver technology solutions to help improve performance on and off the track."
To support the launch of the Windows 10 operating system, the HMS No. 88 Chevrolet of driver Dale Earnhardt will carry a special Microsoft Windows 10 paint scheme for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, the Toyota/Save Mart 350, as well as the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway scheduled for Aug. 2.
Windows 10 is scheduled for launch July 29.
"You've heard Brian (France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO) talk about this rush to innovation," Steve Phelps, Chief Marketing Officer for NASCAR, said. "A lot of that innovation is through technology. ...
"This is another opportunity to showcase that NASCAR is a great place for business for sure, but also for technology companies to come in and prove that their technologies are helping our sport."
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Ultimately, Phelps said, such collaborations will help "get the fans closer to the sport and engage them more" in addition to providing the necessary tools and technology "to help on the competition side ... whatever those things might be that ultimate bring better racing to the fans.
"What exactly that looks like at this point is still in development; we're still having discussions," Phelps said. "It's in our best interest to try to get there, and they certainly want that. They want to use NASCAR as a marketing platform to try and reach new customers and obviously this Windows 10 opportunity and using NASCAR as a platform is a really important start for us."
NASCAR officials began using a Windows mobile inspection application last year to improve and streamline the inspection process.
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"We started our relationship with NASCAR some time ago and now were a moving that into a relationship with Hendrick Motorsports," said Jeremy Korst, GM, Windows Product Marketing, said.
"It is important to us because it allows us to show other business customers in a sport as challenging and as technologically driven as NASCAR, that what the teams are doing trackside and throughout their processes demonstrate how Microsoft can bring that type of solution to such a challenging situation. Telling other customers about that is important to us. Demonstrating that 'hey if this works for Hendrick and NASCAR, it's going to work for a lot of other organizations outside of the sport as well.'
"We see it as a tremendous opportunity to leverage Microsoft and Windows technology as part of the sport going forward. There is a lot more work to do, but we're excited about what we're going to be doing in the near term."
Microsoft began its NASCAR involvement in 2008, as a team sponsor affiliated with BAM Racing. The alliance with Hendrick, and specifically Earnhardt Jr., marks its return from a team perspective.
HMS has won 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles and currently fields entries for Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne, in addition to Earnhardt Jr.
"For us, the first phase is adopting the new Windows 10 operating system across Hendrick Motorsports," said Doug Duchardt, General Manager for HMS.
"The next phase (will involve) how we can apply Microsoft technology to our business side and also to our competition side. We have a small amount of time to make important decisions at the track so anything we can do to work on how to make those decisions quicker and more accurately we look at.
"Microsoft has the technology and the capability to get there. ... They are one of the top technology companies in the world and we're very honored that they chose Hendrick Motorsports to partner with."
Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices.