“These things enhance the race experience so much, it just brings it to the next level,” said Nick Stewart, a 36 year-old man from Richmond, Va. who was returning to arguably NASCAR’s biggest race for the fourth time. Stewart was referring to the radio headsets that are all the craze at any race in NASCAR’s Sprint Series races, and even more so in the Daytona 500.
As you look around at the enormous mass of people, all with their eyes glued to the track, you realize that a majority of them have an antennae sticking up off their head. These radio headsets allow them to listen to their favorite driver — or any driver on the track. Stewart swears by the radios and how much they make the experience of being there that much better.
“Where else can you go and listen to a professional player of any sport talk with his coach, crew chief, or even teammates about strategy on how to win or help get into a position to win,” said Stewart, as he placed the headphones over his ears because there had just been a wreck.
Anytime there is a wreck, it seems everyone goes scrambling through their bags or under their seats to get the headsets on not to miss a beat with their driver. The 20 car of Joey Lagano had spun out coming out of turn four and went into the wall and almost immediately had people fiddling with the channels to listen to pit strategy for each driver.
Many drivers make strategic pit stops, mostly for gas and new tires, but some involved with different wrecks have to communicate with their crew on what needs to be fixed.
“The car is vibrating,” “it’s pulling left or right,” “there’s grinding in the rear tires,” drivers tell their crews after a wreck that they were involved in.
These headsets not only allow people to hear the drivers speak to their respective pit crew, they also allows them to hear any problems that other drivers are having and allow some time to figure out what they are going to yell to heckle a driver.
“What’s the matter Gordon, flower power isn’t working for you today?!?” yelled a man about 15 beers deep who apparently dislikes Gordon and wanted him to know it from 15 rows back while cars zoomed by at 185 mph.
As the race continues on and grows in laps completed, more and more people seem to have headsets on their heads with big headphones covering the sides of their ever intensifying faces.
“I wish I had gotten one of these,” said Mary Wilson, who was attending her first race. “They really seem to get people more involved in the race.”
Wilson noticed that as the race drew on and fewer laps were left, the racing became harder and the chatter became more frequent.
“This is the time where it would be really interesting to hear what drivers are saying to each other and the crews,” Wilson said with her eyes fixed to the yellow caution flag late in the race.
Wilson was right. As it became more and more evident that the race was going to be called early because of rain, drivers began to talk a lot more with their crews about who their help was going to be and when they should try to make their move to the front of the pack.
The radio headsets cost about $40 to rent for the entire weekend, a great deal if you are there for the many different races during the week. The price has been adjusted for fans because of this economy. The president of Sprint, Dan Hesse, spoke before the race and informed people that the price had been dropped from $55 to $40 so everyone could have equal opportunity to rent the headset and experience the race with them.
“It was well worth the money to rent this scanner,” Stewart announced to everyone around him many times throughout the race.
He went on to add that with or without the radio, this race is something special.
“This race is the race that you don’t just watch, it’s the race that you witness. I doesn’t matter if you rent the radios or not,” he said.