I recently started watching NASCAR and I was wondering how the drivers communicate with the pit crew?

(Asked by Paul from Dublin, Ireland)

Y’know, I visited your fine city of Dublin many years ago and had a wonderful time. It is a truly magical place.

Anyway, on to your question….

NASCAR drivers use a unique radio system that is built in to their crash helmets. These are occasionally customized to suit the individual wearer. In addition to this, there is a push-to-talk button (exactly like the one found on a walkie-talkie), which is situated in the steering wheel. A wiring harness connects the various components together and a separate battery operates the whole thing. The signal is broadcast via a whip antenna that is attached to the roof of the car. In this fashion, NASCAR drivers are able to communicate with pit crews. Continue reading

When NASCAR needed a faster, more efficient communications system, they turned to Motorola.

The Talladega Superspeedway covers 3,000 acres, and is a Super Bowl®-sized NASCAR event that attracts 150,000 on-site spectators and millions more watching at home.

NASCAR manages over 1,200 races every year on 200 race tracks in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and each location poses its own challenges in terms of radio traffic and interference. These challenges are magnified when systems must be deployed quickly, every week, over a wide geographic area. Pit crews, drivers, officials, and all other members of the internal and external organization must have a communications system that supports flawless connections, every time. When seconds count, there is no room for missed or delayed communications; speed and voice clarity are everything. NASCAR recently realized that their older system was just not keeping up, and there’s no doubt that providing secure and reliable communications for an event like this can seem overwhelming. Each NASCAR event involves up to 40,000 people, with approximately 80 officials presiding over two races, each with 43 cars, and each with teams of up to 30 people. In addition to NASCAR drivers, maintenance personnel, and pit crews, each race requires spotters, timing and scoring groups, as well as fire and rescue units. Also working on-site are emergency personnel, food vendors, ticketing and parking attendants, television and radio crews, and public relations representatives. Because NASCAR stages many regional events, several outside organizations need to be integrated into the communications loop. The sheer number of radios and talk groups that have to be moved and set up very quickly is enough to tax any radio system, and NASCAR’s old system was clearly over-taxed. NASCAR examined all options during a six-month intensive study. Digital radio seemed to be the best route to achieving the key requirements surfaced in this study, which included NASCAR’s need to: Continue reading