[Contributor piece by Tony Stevens]
Ever raced against a ghost car in Need for Speed, iRacing or any other racing software platform? It’s pretty awesome and adds a whole new challenge and a new realm of information to the experience. What if Legends car drivers could have a ghost car to race against, that would be awesome, right? The technology exists and it’s a lot cheaper than most expect.
Anyone involved in racing over the last few seasons remembers Danica Patrick’s pole-winning run at the Daytona 500 two years ago. The video Fox played of her car overlayed with a previous car showed precisely where she picked up speed compared to the driver she knocked off the pole position. Instantly, everyone speculated on what happened, whether that was a gust of wind or some other explanation for the sudden burst of speed on the backstretch.
The same can be done for Legends cars at any event on the calendar.
The technology is from a company called Dartfish and while it looks expensive up front, spread across several clients it can bring the cost down to reasonable. Once again, Cup-level technology has made its way to grassroots racing for a reasonable cost.
“We could do it everywhere, but the cost of the program exceeds any one short track race team’s budget.” said Frankie Kimmel whose father Frank now drives for ARCA powerhouse Venturini Motorsports and is an accomplished racer in his own right. “It costs the same amount of money for time and people if you have one car or twenty cars. If ten racers got together and pitched in a little bit, it would lower the cost substantially and everyone could get the benefit of the Dartfish technology to see where they’re getting beat and begin to work on fixing it.”
Kimmel has been seen discussing the technology and the idea with parents and teams throughout the garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Winter Heat Series. He said the reaction has been positive amongst everyone he’s talked to.
“Especially for younger racers, it’s sometimes hard to explain where they’re losing time or how they can manipulate what they’re doing with the racecar because of their lack of experience or knowledge base,” Kimmel explained. “But if you can outright show them their own performance compared to a higher-performing competitor, it helps the light bulb to turn on. Now, there’s verifiable proof of what they are doing and verifiable proof of improvement. Everyone thinks it’s great to speed up the learning curve for these kids, whether they wanna do this for a living or are just having some fun. It ultimately makes the racing better.”
The Dartfish technology uses a camera mounted above the racing surface to capture lap videos of various competitors. A computer program then overlays the videos to compare laps against either another competitor or more of the same driver’s laps. The end result looks almost identical to the ghost car feature found in many of today’s most popular video games and racing simulations.
“Winter Heat and the Summer Shootout are the perfect places to utilize this kind of technology because those events are so competitive,” Kimmel continued. “With us being in Florida for Daytona during Winter Nationals in Orlando, it might even be an option to do something there for competitors. It’s a product that sells itself and any racer who wants to better themselves has an interest in it.”
And Kimmel knows advantages when he sees them. As a mechanic for his father, he has won numerous ARCA championships and has competed for years at the famed Salem Speedway in Indiana. He has won at Rockingham Speedway on the one-mile layout in street stock competition and has a handful of ARCA starts under his belt. He has won in nearly every division he has competed.
“If someone’s serious about getting better and improving themselves, they need to get in touch with me or someone who can help get them get on board with this stuff,” he said. “It’s pretty sweet.”
For years, the stopwatch and the naked eye have been two of the most valuable tools for racers and teams to analyze their performance. Video added another aspect, but the latest advances in technology have made Dartfish the newest piece of technology the top teams are using in all forms of motorsports, even traditional sports and athletics. While it may not have helped the Kimmel family in the past, they have big plans for its use in the future and want to share that kind of information with grassroots racers nationwide.
Frankie Kimmel makes himself available to discuss the new technology at length with parents, drivers, teams and anyone else who wants to listen. He can be contacted through email at email@example.com or at 502-693-2017.
To see Dartfish in action, check out this video from the Rockstar Energy Supercross team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW0tp7t-5Ko