What a day with the Target Racing Team

Yesterday I lived the dream of thousands of race fans: I got to hang out behind the scenes at the Target Racing Team. I interviewed Jacques Lazier, driver of Target’s #10 car. You’ll see him on ESPN on Sunday in Toyota’s Indy 400 race.

I had no idea what went into racing. Jacques spent a lot of time with us. The car he drives costs about $1 million with $100,000 worth of electronics alone. It’s amazing the amount of telemetry data they can get off the dozens of sensors that come off the car.

Ever drive 218 MPH? Jaques does. But, you ever do it with dozens of other cars just inches away from you? You ever do it knowing if you make a single mistake it’ll be the end of your life (or worse?)

I learned that there are actually two different sports going on. One is a physical one. That’s Jacques’ world. It’s one of eye hand coordination, of picking the best line, of having the smoothest hand, of having the best technique.

But there’s another sport: the geek sport. See, Jacques led us into the garage. There we met with teams of geeks who had Dell laptops plugged into the car. They were testing out the dozens of sensors.

As they drive around the track these sensors report all sorts of data back to their laptops and Tablet PCs. They get to watch EVERYTHING going on with the car. There are even laser sensors inside the front wheel that measure distance from the ground and tilt and rake of the car.

The team — most of which has advanced college degrees in physics or engineering — told me how races are determined by who has written the best algorithms to figure out things like gas mileage of both them and their competitors.

The team wouldn’t let me shoot three things: their suspension systems, their engine and gas line systems, and their algorithms.

By the way, I want to shout out to one of my readers: Joe Berkemeier. He wrote me and said he’ll be at the race this weekend covering it for Tracksideonline.com.

Oh, and, yes, the team bragged about how they use Microsoft stuff including Tablet PCs, Windows Messenger, and OneNote. More when I get the videos up in a couple of weeks.