ESPN, Sportvision show NASCAR race fans airflow via Draft Track

By Dan Latzman

ESPN and Sportvision have teamed up to provide NASCAR fans with a never-before-seen effect that will allow viewers to see the airflows created by the racecars. Sunday’s telecast of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard will be the first time that ESPN and Sportvision debut their enhanced NASCAR coverage with “Draft Track,” enabling NASCAR fans to see air flowing over and behind the cars as the driver’s speed around the track.

“The air flow on a track is an incredibly important aspect of racing that people don’t have any real visualization on how it works,” says Hank Adams, CEO of Sportvision. “For the first time, we are able to illustrate the exact cause of a wreck by showing the actual airflow. This is something people have never seen before.”

To develop this software, Sportvision worked with many organizations, including General Motors, to map out what happens with the airflow in different situations. They used computational fluid dynamics information and wind tunnel data to develop a complete model of the airflow and its effect on cars in relation to each other. At first, Draft Track will only be used on replays, but Adams believes it will someday be incorporated into live racing action.

“This technology can really help you better judge the drivers and will teach people a lot,” Adams adds. “For example, if an inexperienced driver is in that column of air coming out of a turn with a car in from of them they’ll use the slingshot effect to pass but won’t give enough space and they’ll end up losing control of their car.”

Good drivers, he adds, make sure they have good separation and don’t lose down force, maintaining control of their car. “Draft Track allows NASCAR fans to clearly view and understand the mistake a driver might make in dealing with airflow and understand the cause of a wreck,” says Adams.