NASCAR Reflects on Successful Live VR/360 Experience at Cup Series Championship

Omnigon, Ultracast assist in acquisition, distribution of live 360 content from Homestead-Miami

As Martin Truex Jr. was racing to a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship two weeks ago, NASCAR’s digital team was behind the scenes making a bit of history of its own with its first live-streamed 360-degree/VR prerace experience.*

GarageCam was a key feature of NASCAR’s live 360/VR experience in Homestead-Miami last month.

Leading up to the Ford EcoBoost 400 (which was held on Nov. 19), NASCAR wanted to give fans another unique opportunity to experience life at the track for the season’s final race of the year. The league is known for pushing the boundaries when it comes to providing insider access to its fans, but, for the race that would define its champion, NASCAR wanted to “teleport” viewers into places they’d never been before, in real time to all of its digital platforms.

Through a partnership with Omnigon and Ultracast (which is known for its work on providing video experiences at auto-racing events), NASCAR Digital Media was able to provide live content from inside the garages and the driver’s meeting of key cars entering the race. Via smartphone, VR headset, or laptop, users could dive into this content and interact with the video in a 360-degree virtual environment.

“I really think that the 360 experience adds a lot to [what we do],” says Ben Selland, senior director, digital platforms and technical operations, ‎NASCAR. “Being able to give the fans an experience that they aren’t always going to be able to experience — certainly not week in and week out — like walking around the garage, interacting with the drivers, and walking between the cars; it’s just a really cool experience. I don’t think there’s a ton of other parallels to that across the rest of sports.”

Ultracast provided much of the content-acquisition and -distribution hardware (much of which was proprietary equipment) to deliver the content to all platforms and not just a single streaming destination.

According to Selland, the biggest logistical challenge to pulling off the productions was connectivity in the garages and meeting rooms and establishing a workflow where content could be streamed live and also brought back for clipping and editing for VOD content to be distributed later.

All in all, it proved to be a successful execution and one that Selland says his team will consider using again next season on selected races.

Fox Sports produced a live VR stream with NextVR at the 2016 Daytona 500.