If there is one thing that can really improve your race day or race weekend experience, it’s a scanner. Anyone who has been to a race has seen the over-sized headphones all over the crowd, and it’s something that has always intrigued me. A good scanner starts at $250, and extra headphones can be $50 a piece. If you attend a lot of races- this is probably the smart way to go. But if you live in Indy, and go to the occasional race, that is a purchase you might not be willing to make. This is why I recommend scanner RENTAL.
Track-Scan is the company with the bright yellow headphones, that you can’t miss. They have a few locations at the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400- where you can rent or buy a scanner. Rental is for the day, or weekend for a very small up-charge. You can rent a single scanner, and add up to 2 more headsets. At the time of writing this article, their site lists a single day as $30, weekend as $35, and additional headsets at $15 each.
The best part about renting, besides saving over $200, is the programming. The scanner comes pre-programmed with all the frequencies you might want over a race weekend, including drivers of various race series, backup channels for some drivers, safety/security channels, and race-track broadcast. If programming changes throughout the weekend, you can stop by one of the Track-Scan trailers, and after a few key presses, and about a 45-second wait, your device is re-programmed with the most recent frequencies.
Another great thing? For every rental, you can ask for a kids rental headset for free! This offer is available for kids 12 and under, the child must be present at the time of rental and only one kids headset offer PER rental.
The headsets do a great job of blocking out a lot of the loud engine noise, so you can protect your ears, and hear what’s going on at the same time. The headsets daisy-chain to each other, so that up to three people can listen to the same scanner, without all the wires getting tangled up across laps, nachos and beer.
Once the race starts, listening in to your favorite driver is as simple as typing the car number into the scanner. This is a quick way to switch between a few drivers, or listen in to post-crash activities. If you’re near the pit lane, look for the numbers printed on the pit wall. When you see a crew coming over the wall to get ready for a car coming in, type that number in and listen to the precise instructions for a well-executed pit stop. Keep a newspaper or program with drivers names and numbers, so when you (heaven forbid) hear a crash involving a particular driver, you can quickly cross-reference their name, and get on their channel.
When you don’t know what to listen to, you can also just Scan. This feature has the scanner run through all the drivers on the scan list (editable) and stops whenever someone is talking. You have to be able to glance down quickly, as sometimes it will move on before you realize who is talking- especially if it’s someone from a pit crew- making it hard to recognize the voice. My advice is to edit which channels are scanned ahead of time, to some of your favorite drivers, and maybe the top-contenders, or top-starters. This way, it’s not scanning the whole field- just the cars you want. The other half of that advice, is to use yellow-flag laps as a time to re-program. I would keep 3 or 4 drivers I was interested in, plus the top-5 during every caution period as my scan list. I figured this is where a lot of the action might take place. I also didn’t miss much race action by looking at my scanner during caution periods.
I found myself listening to the track broadcast- which was the same broadcast that goes out to the radio, and then when something exciting happened, or the radio went to commercial, I started scanning. If I came across something interesting during the scanning, I’d stay there a little while, then head back to the radio broadcast when the commercials should have ended.
Overall- my Track-Scan experience was awesome! I felt more involved in the race than I ever have before, and it kept things interesting, even when I wasn’t in a good seat to see one of the big screens for action around the track- the radio broadcast did a great job of keeping me informed. Kids can really enjoy the technology of the race this way to. However– fair warning: if you watched the 2012 Indy 500 on TV, you heard the radio communications between driver Marco Andretti, and his crew chief. He was pretty upset at one point, and had some words and phrases censored out on television. I happened to be scanning at that time, and heard it live. There is no censoring on the scanner! I don’t know what rules and regulations are set forth by IndyCar or Nascar, and Marco may have been fined. The interactions I heard all day were family friendly except for that one. So if you have young kids- be aware of which drivers you choose to follow, or be ready to explain the stresses of trying to win a race!