DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bringing high-tech equipment out into the field sometimes connotes a level of fragility, especially in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage with the heat, humidity and grit from seasonable Florida afternoons.
So far, the new Optical Scanning Station (OSS) car inspection process hasn’t wilted under the pressure of its first full-fledged NASCAR weekend at Daytona International Speedway. And that’s given John Probst, NASCAR Managing Director for Competition and Innovation, some peace of mind as the system makes its debut in the days leading up to Sunday’s Daytona 500 (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM).
“I can say so far — I don’t want to sound like I was planning on the worst there — but it’s worked out better than I had hoped actually so far,” Probst said during a break between Sunday’s Daytona 500 qualifying and the Advance Auto Parts Clash. “We’ve run well over 220 scans by this point and so far, so good. No major issues.”
The new technology — developed by the NASCAR Research & Development team in conjunction with Hawk-Eye Innovations — uses 17 cameras and eight projectors in a tented inspection bay to map and check vehicle bodies for compliance. The system replaces the Laser Inspection System (LIS) and some templates that were previously used last season.
Though it’s still early in the process, the reviews for the system’s initial effectiveness have largely been positive, Probst says. Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Rodney Childers was among those offering a thumbs-up on social media, and Team Penske owner Roger Penske and crew chief Paul Wolfe also chimed in with their praises after Brad Keselowski’s Clash victory Sunday in the Penske No. 2 Ford.
“One thing I will say, that the (OSS) process has really made a whole different week out of this,” Penske said. “There’s been less work on the cars. The machine says where you are, and everybody has got to be there. So I feel that we’re all racing on a level playing field, which is a big step for NASCAR and what they’ve tried to do.”
The system made a handful of appearances at NASCAR races toward the end of last season, but Saturday and Sunday marked its first official use in competition. And though NASCAR’s competition officials processed more than 1,000 scans in the offseason at the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, Sunday was the first run-through for a full field of cars in pre-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500.
With little exception, the flow of cars through the inspection bay was relatively smooth, with each scan taking roughly three minutes. And teams have caught on with some of the system’s nuances, even in simple courtesy matters such as furling up the tent’s flaps once their scans were finished.
Probst says it’s all part of a learning process, one that won’t end after Speedweeks are complete.
“It’s worked very well, but we learn every day, almost with every car,” Probst said. “We’re students every day. We’re going to learn and get better. We’ve already changed some things that we do here with lineups, how we roll the cars on and how we stage the cars, where we stage the crew members. So yeah, this will be a process. We’re going to continue to work with the garage to continue to make it better and better.
“The way it looks in Atlanta will be even better than it was here, and when we get to Homestead, I’d like to say we’ll be done but we won’t. We’ll continue to do the things that make it more efficient and a better result for all of us.”