Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Digital Dashboards Come to NASCAR; Goal Is to Provide More Info for Drivers without Affecting Performance of Cars

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Digital Dashboards Come to NASCAR; Goal Is to Provide More Info for Drivers without Affecting Performance of Cars

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

NASCAR plans to modernize its fleet of race cars later this year, even if new digital dashboards have been around for more than 30 years.

Much like the switches to unleaded gasoline and fuel injection systems, the stock-car organization isn't afraid to take its time keeping up with the times. The new dashboards, which were tested by nine drivers a week ago at Kentucky Speedway, are designed to give drivers more information without affecting the performance of the car.

While NASCAR hasn't decided what information will be allowed, drivers were allowed to play with lap times, fuel consumption and more precise tachometer and suspension readings during the test.

"As time goes on and the teams all have an adequate allotment of the dashes, we'll be able to run them in our cars ourselves," Jimmie Johnson said. "And then, I think, over time, they'll continue to open up options for us to use. Right now, it's set up pretty basic."

Manufacturers switched to fuel injection systems in 1975. NASCAR didn't phase out carburetors in favor of fuel injection until 2012.

The move from leaded gasoline to unleaded didn't come until 2007, although U.S. manufacturers moved to unleaded fuels in 1975.

The evolution to digital readouts is another step toward making NASCAR appear to be more contemporary. Teams may start using digital dashboard for the road-course race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 9, and the new dashboards will be mandatory for 2016.

"It's evolving, and it's something that we think can be a real game changer for the sport in terms of us showcasing technology," NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell recently told XMSirius Radio. "There's also some proprietary information. We want to make sure we keep that with the teams from a competitive standpoint, but some really cool stuff potentially coming for '16, and I think the fans will ultimately enjoy what they see."

NASCAR has been slow to conform to technology because it wants a car's success to be the result of mechanics and drivers, not computers. …

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