NASCAR fans are some of the most passionate in sports. If you’ve ever been to a race, it’s easy to understand why. While the action on track is as visceral and breathtaking as ever, fans expect more. In our series Modernizing NASCAR, we’ll detail the innovation happening in the sport — at the tracks, in the media and across the business.
This year, as race fans descend upon Daytona Beach, Florida for the Daytona 500, they will be greeted with some new and exciting features at the speedway, within the broadcast and on their mobile devices. From augmented reality to smart at-track displays to a virtual broadcast set, we’ve got the lowdown on some of the must-try race day tech for fans this season.
Connecting with race fans through augmented reality
At Daytona International Speedway, racegoers can take advantage of the free Wifi to connect with the race, the drivers and one another. And now, leveraging that connectivity, Daytona will introduce an element of augmented reality to their race day program where fans can unlock video content via their mobile app.
“It’s a melding of old and new,” says Chip Wile, President of Daytona International Speedway. “Programs have been a part of our DNA since the beginning, and now we are using technology to really enhance that experience for our younger demographic and consumer.”
This is really the tip of the iceberg for using augmented reality at NASCAR races. As the tech is tried and tested, DIS and other tracks will surely look to use it across other platforms inside the track with the goal of making that fan experience a memorable one.
Deepening engagement through fantasy gaming
NASCAR launched its Fantasy Live product in 2018 that gives race fans yet another touch point for following their favorite drivers, automakers and teams. It is a compelling experience both for fans at the race and at home, giving participants an incentive to watch their favorite drivers and teams.
“The Fantasy Live experience certainly has an added benefit to a NASCAR fan,” says Wile. “We have such a unique product, and it will be really fun to see how this continues to morph and grow.”
Fantasy live can be accessed through nascar.com or within the NASCAR mobile app. Of course, let’s not forget about the prizes. This year fans can win up to $2500 for their entries in the Daytona contest. Overall winners can earn up to $10,000 over the course of the 2019 season.
Delivering smart brand activations at the venue
ISM Connect has upgraded their fan engagement displays this year, providing fans with ample opportunity to connect with brands and promotions at the track. Screens will be placed in key locations around the track at eye level, giving fans a way to derive real value during their time at track. Fans can win items and experiences that they can’t buy their way into, and they’ll have access to content around teams and drivers that will not be available anywhere else on property.
“Imagine a chance to win a new Honda generator at the track through an on-screen promotion,” says Jeff Josephson, VP of Sports at ISM Connect. “Enhanced activation is just one of the things we are aiming to achieve as we bring our technology to other sports like MiLB. Not just serving ads, but deriving value from the ads that benefits the consumer directly.”
Bringing the live action to mobile
Of course, there will also be plenty of tech for those fans who won’t be at the track this weekend. NASCAR touts two mobile applications for fans: Raceview and NASCAR mobile. These two apps connect fans with the live event through real time stats, leaderboards, and live audio.
Fox Sports holds the broadcast rights for the races at Daytona, and so this is where fans at home will need to go to live stream the race, watch highlights and access behind the scenes content using the Fox Sports Go app. Fox also offers the RaceTrax that follows the leaderboard in real time. Subscribers of fubo.tv can also access the live stream of the race. Right now, there is a free trial running. Perfect timing for the Daytona 500.
Virtualizing the broadcast
This year at Daytona, Fox Sports will unveil a virtual broadcast set powered by Fortnite graphics creator, Epic Games. The Unreal Engine will bring “high-fidelity experiences” to the at-home fan through augmented reality and virtual reality.
“Unreal Engine gives new meaning to photorealism for real-time renderers,” said Zac Fields, FOX Sports SVP Graphic Tech and Integration. “Being able to blend AR and 3D graphics better than ever before offers us the ability to deliver a seamless transition from the virtual set into the 3D world.”
Taking the race day buzz to social
Across the properties that contribute to the race day experience at Daytona, fans will find no shortage of content on social media platforms. NASCAR and Fox Sports will have streams to follow, and of course here at ISM, our team will be hard at work delivering insider content and opportunities to win prizes on @racefancentral – including gear signed by NASCAR stars, tickets and suite passes to Daytona in July, Gander Outdoors gift certificates, or even a Honda Generator!
So, as you settle in to your seats at the track this weekend — or your seat in front of the live broadcast — take some of these new features for a test drive, and tell them ISM Connect sent you.
Amie Sheridan is a Philadelphia-based writer and content strategist serving sports technology startups. Her work has appeared in Sports Business Journal.