For the first time, NASCAR will become an official sponsor of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference.
The 2016 event will happen March 11-12. In just a decade, the conference has grown from a small experts-only affair on the MIT campus to a 3,500 person multifaceted event, that now takes place in a convention center in downtown Boston.
NASCAR’s event sponsorship makes sense as the industry has experienced increased growth in data, statistics, and analytics. Many Cup-level crew chiefs have college degrees and engineering backgrounds now, a noticeable shift from the more traditional and old school mechanics that dominated the sports in previous generations.
In past versions of the MIT conference, there have been panels focused specifically on motorsports, with speakers from NASCAR and IndyCar among others. What many fans may not see are the massive data feeds that teams are working with, tracking all kinds of movement in the car.
These huge datasets allow teams to make more fine-tuned adjustments on cars, be more accurate with aerodynamic setups, and also experiment with strategy.
Some of the strategy innovations teams have been playing with include more customized fuel and tire strategies, especially late in the race. A lot of the statistical innovations that originated from baseball and basketball can be modified for use in a racing context.
The NASCAR logo will appear here on Wednesday on the MIT conference website. A NASCAR official told me the organization’s involvement and attendance at the conference will be considerably large next year, and considers it a sign of bigger things to come in the future.
Eric Chemi runs data journalism for our sister network CNBC, including a heavy dose of sports analytics. Prior to that, his NASCAR analytics have been part of television broadcasts, and he has consulted for Sprint Cup teams on strategy, statistics, data, and analytics. He graduated with an engineering degree from MIT.