Rugged Computers Drive Data Analysis for NASCAR Team

As NASCAR great Jeff Gordon hits the track in the No. 24 Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway next week, Panasonic Toughbook will be more than just the brand emblazoned on the side of the vehicle. Toughbook laptops will play a key role in Hendrick Motorsports’ success before, during and after the race.

For every racing organization, high-tech innovation plays a huge role both on and off the track. Not only are the cars’ engines and designs highly advanced, but teams prepare for races using data from sensors and onboard computers equipped on vehicles that collect mountains of telemetry data. That data, along with data on driver performance, wind conditions, track conditions and numerous other factors, is used by team engineers and technicians to tune the car for the best race possible.

Data collection is also done during the research and development phase, when engineers are able to collect data from a test session then bring it back to the race shop and seamlessly simulate race conditions to provide accurate insights about how best to improve the performance of the vehicle.

Earlier this year, Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 team race engineers Matt Barndt and Tom Gray spoke about how they use science, technology, engineering and math on the job. Both engineers highlighted how data-based decision-making was a key part of their role in improving on-track performance.

“Essentially, the biggest part of my job is collecting data and, as efficiently as possible, parsing through that data,” Barndt said. “That would include everything from driver input data (throttle percentage, brake pressure, steering input, etc.) to track data collected at tests (travels and other such metrics that we aren’t able to collect on race weekends), to running the database where we store all of car’s setup information.”

“I work a lot with the simulation tool to produce setups for the car that are the best compromise of speed and handling,” Gray said. “The simulation tool is a lot like a high performance video game for lack of a better term, and enables us to tune the car to Jeff’s comments.”

Panasonic’s rugged computers are essential tools for much of this data collection and analysis. With much of the work done in the fast-paced track environment Hendrick Motorsports relies on Panasonic’s Toughbook ruggedized computers throughout their organization.

Rugged mobile computers are as ideal for the racing environment as they are for the military battlefield, police cruiser or shop floor. For example, the devices’ sunlight-readable displays allow engineers and drivers to review data regardless of lighting conditions. The extreme heat found at the race track on a summer’s day can render some computers useless, but not ones that are designed for use in that environment. Other elements, such as shock-mounted hard drives, user-replaceable batteries and numerous connectivity options, boost the Toughbook laptops’ usability and provide long-term reliability in situations where consumer devices would fail.

To learn more about Panasonic’s Toughbook rugged computers, visit