Toyota Racing Development puts Microsoft Surface in the NASCAR pit lane

If you've ever been in the cockpit of a race car you know that there's not a lot of room to maneuver in there -- even if you're hustling around one of the oversized sedans colloquially referred to as "stock cars." So, when Toyota Racing Development engineers developed a Windows 7 application called TRD Race Strategy for use among their NASCAR-affiliated teams, they had a bit of a problem. Even when it was installed on a slinky Ultrabook, drivers had to climb out of the car if they wanted to use the app to look at timing data and punch in handling issues. When you're wearing a six-point harness plus various connections for cooling, drinks and communications, getting in and out can be a bit of a hassle.

Enter Windows 8 and a new generation of tablet PCs that, conveniently, drivers can hand in and out of the cockpit without even taking off the window nets. With some help from Microsoft, TRD has ported the app to Win 8 and RT and have begun using the Surface with Windows RT, allowing drivers to tap away at problem corners and analyze their lap times without unbuckling. Sadly, though, they're not allowed to see much else, as NASCAR bans nearly all forms of telemetry -- and, just about anything else resembling modern technology. RAB Racing, a Nationwide Series entrant, is the first team to deploy this system in the pits, but we'd expect to see this app making a trip to the Sprint Cup big leagues next year. First fuel injection, now tablets in NASCAR. What's next, independent rear suspension?