Brian Z. France, CEO of NASCAR, announced last week that he plans to change the face of stock car racing to appeal to a wider viewing audience. His plans include the incorporation of new technology and bright colors into the world of racing.
France first proposed that NASCAR should alter the look and colors of cars. Noticing a decline in attendance and television viewers, he wanted to make racing more appealing to teenagers, attracting them to the racetrack as well as the television broadcasts.
“One way I would like to draw more teens to racing is through the use of neons and other glowing colors,” France said. “I don’t think they are infantile, but I believe that the colors will draw in a younger audience.”
The base of France’s plans revolves around Kartechnology, a form of automotive technology inspired by Nintendo’s “Mario Kart” racing simulation game.
In “Mario Kart,” racers are able to slow their competition using items found along the racecourse. These items include banana peels and false item boxes. There are also three different classes of turtle shells-green, red and blue, which perform different tasks when used.
Though the idea of drivers like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. firing turtle shells at each other is laughable at best, France believes the feat can be completed through wireless computer technology.
“By attaching a small computer to the rear bumper of each car, drivers will be able to transmit attacks among each other through a form of wireless Internet,” France said. “Our next step will be to allow viewers to see a computer-
generated shell on TV at the track and at home.”
France also hopes to provide drivers with that luxury, rather than keeping them in the dark until they are hit. Each car outfitted with the on-board computer will also have a display screen similar to a radar, allowing them to prepare for or avoid potential attacks. The display screen will also act as an indicator to show when drivers receive items on the track.
France’s Kartechnology is not entirely a new technology, but instead a collection of smaller pieces placed together. The main tool used in the shell weapon is actually a device used commonly by police officers to end car chases safely.
The device used by police completely shuts off the electricity within the engine while keeping the driver in control of the steering. France’s design for the technology only temporarily disables the engine, allowing the attacker a moment to pass the competition.
The first issue France claimed to encounter was the distribution of items among drivers. He was not sure whether to provide each driver with a set number of items at the beginning or to allow drivers to refuel on items during pit
“Instead of simply giving drivers items that put them on the offense, we are going to follow the technique used by Nintendo,” said Scott Kratochvil, a mechanical engineer hired by NASCAR for this project. “We are going to place
the items throughout the racetrack by placing computer output stations in the track itself. It will be very similar to where a station will be temporarily unavailable once a driver passes across it.”
The boxes scattered across the track will include red shells to attack the driver’s nearest competition and blue shells to attack the lead car.
In addition, there will be empty boxes, giving drivers an equal chance to pull ahead or to be knocked behind.
France is currently in negotiation with various engineers like Kratochvil to begin designing other items like shields and anti-shell items to protect drivers as well.