NASCAR: How Hendrick Motorsports Uses IT To Tune Performance

Imagine being behind the wheel of your car when you suddenly notice gasoline dripping on your leg. Pretty scary, huh? But when it happened to four-time NASCAR champion race driver Jeff Gordon in a 2002 race, he was pushing 200 miles per hour—which made it a whole lot scarier.

As soon as Gordon’s car headed into the pit for repairs, his crew of engineers swung into action. They quickly found the problem: a malfunctioning fuel gauge.

But by using the design application of Teamcenter, a product life-cycle management (PLM) system from UGS Corp. (formerly Unigraphics), the engine crew redesigned the part, remanufactured new ones and had them installed in time for the following weekend’s race. The result: Gordon’s team took first in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.

“The goal in our business is to raise our level of performance and improve reliability,” says Jim Wall, director of engineering at Hendrick Motorsports, a Charlotte, N.C.-based racing organization with 550 employees. Hendrick fields a half-dozen NASCAR racing teams, including those for top drivers Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers.

Reliability and performance, in fact, often spell the difference between a win and a loss, or a non-finish due to engine failure. In the world of NASCAR, while the drivers are the “jockeys,” the “thoroughbreds” of the 36-race season are the cars’ engines. They must not only be capable of speeds of about 200 miles per hour, but they also must withstand flat-out punishment for hours at a time.

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