This year’s Daytona 500 will be just a little different than previous years. Fox Sports plans to integrate thermal imaging cameras. This is an industry first for any sports institution. Thermal imaging cameras have a wide variety of uses commonly used by the police in helicopters to spot illicit drug operations utilizing high intensity grow lamps as well as many various other industrial uses used to look at core temperatures of machines or other equipment.
The logic behind the application of these cameras during the big NASCAR race is to show just how hot these vehicles get from the outside. The engines retain massive amounts of heat and after numerous laps around the track the tires begin to heat up, so much so that tires much be changed several times during a race. Also brakes when needed will typically generate a large amount of heat and on very hot days the track surface temperature can become very, very hot. That, of course, is not to ignore the drivers in the middle of the action. The drivers have to wear already very hot flame resistant clothing while inside the cabins of these machines, so much so that the suits worn are not only flame resistant but feature tubes that travel throughout the suit allowing cold water to be circulated to help keep the drivers cool.
Right now Fox Sports only plans to use the thermal cameras on replays. There are variety of very interesting applications this technology could be used for. Another less fortunate might be to visualize where fire could potentially be starting in the event of an accident.