by Thomas Wailgum

Nascar and Nextel Bring Fans Closer to the Track

Oct 01, 20052 mins
Data CenterNetworking

As the chase for the Nascar Nextel Cup roars into high gear this month, Nascar fans—whether they’re at the track or following the races from home—can get closer to the action with mobile services from the wireless carrier.

During this racing season, Nextel, which took over the title sponsorship from Winston in 2004, introduced a two-way headset for race fans that plugs into both a scanner (which transmits conversations between the drivers and their pit crews) and a wireless phone (through which Nextel can deliver drivers’ dashboard data). The headsets are equipped with a noise-canceling microphone that masks the roar of the stock car engines so the communications are more audible. The headsets also make it possible to carry on a phone conversation during a race.

Nextel’s ability to deliver new information services to data-hungry Nascar fans helped the company win its 10-year sponsorship deal (Nascar will get an estimated $700 million). Midway through its rookie season, Nextel rolled out two services: FanScan, which transmits the live and uncensored radio communications between drivers, their pit crews, spotters and team owners during the races to fans who use Nextel phones (but is not available to fans who are at the track); and To Go with PitCommand, which shows drivers’ dashboard readings on the phone.

FanScan delivers the gritty details from nine drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, who can be heard talking about how their cars are handling and about their pit-stop strategies. Fans are also privy to the drivers’ screams of joy when they cross the finish line and their disgust when they spin out into a wall. Fans can use PitCommand to see RPM, throttle and brake indicators, lap counts and the driver’s track position.

Radio-scanning technology at the tracks isn’t new, however; vendors have been selling scanners with headsets for years. Thus, both FanScan and PitCommand are aimed more toward fans who can’t make it to the track. The two-way headsets, which work with the equipment many frequent race attendees already have, are designed for fans at the track who might want to, among other things, call their friends and boast about what a great time they’re having.