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Radio Days; Communication Upgraded For DIS

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 30 2011

Regan Smith pushes Kurt Busch up the front stretch in this year's Daytona 500. The two-deep racing has necessitated new forms of communication. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Daytona Beach, Fla. – When NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers began racing in two-car drafts at Daytona in February, the unique form of competition created scenarios and safety issues never before seen.

For the first time in the sport’s history, drivers discovered they needed to talk to fellow competitors who were not their teammates. That was possible with each team’s permission, but there was still a safety issue because the second driver in the two-car draft couldn’t hear his spotter and crew chief when talking with the lead driver. He could only hear the lead car’s crew chief and spotter.

That’s when Racing Radios’ team, with sales and service representative Tony Cornacchia spearheading the project, began working on a two-way radio system that would allow two drivers drafting together to talk to one another while also listening to their respective crew chiefs and spotters. At Darlington in May, Cornacchia began discussing the new system with the teams.

“The reason we came up with this was because we wanted to increase the safety in what they’re doing,” Cornacchia explained. “It’s not good for a driver not to be able to hear his crew chief if he needs to tell him something. So we’re trying to go after the safety aspect and also make it more competitive; be able to allow them to do the things they’re trying to do with this new draft.”

The day before practice opened at Daytona for the Fourth of July weekend Sprint Cup and Nationwide events, approximately 20 cars in NASCAR’s top two series had already committed to using the new remote channel selector system developed by the Forest Park, Ga.-based firm.

Some teams are unable to use the system due to contractual obligations with other companies.

Communication will not be restricted to teammates at DIS this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

The system, which takes about 30 minutes to install, costs $1,105 if purchased with new two-way radios. It
consists of two radios, a modified wiring harness, and a 3-inch diameter disk with a channel selector in the center. The channel selector plastic box is mounted on the dash’s left corner with Velcro beside the switch that starts the car’s engine. Previously, if a driver wanted to change the channels on his radio, he couldn’t see the car number to which he was turning the channel selector because of where the radio was mounted in his race car.

Now the car numbers for the drivers to whom communication has been approved are on the disk. Since this weekend’s races are at night an LED with a clear disk and black numbers has been installed on the selector box so the drivers will be able to clearly see every car number under the night conditions.

“We’ve modified the car harness to where there is a switch that goes from radio one to radio two,” Cornacchia said in explaining the system. “Radio one is their primary, which is the team, and radio two is the 16 position channel selecting radio that has the remote channel selector. When they’re in position one they only hear and talk on their primary radio. When they go to position two, they can hear their primary, but talk and listen on the secondary (radio).

“A toggle switch mounted on the roll bar allows the driver to switch between the two positions. Both radios stay on the whole time. All they have to do is toggle back and forth.”

Normally, the second radio is the driver’s backup in case the first radio fails during an event. If this should happen at Daytona, the driver can switch to the second radio in order to communicate with his spotter and crew chief, but the new system will be disabled.

“Channel 1 on the 16 position radio is also their (team) channel, so if radio one has a problem, they can just go to channel one on radio two,” Cornacchia said. “If they go to one of the other team channels they won’t have the communication (with their team) anymore.”

However, it would be possible during a pit stop for a driver to receive a new radio to replace the one that’s malfunctioning, thus restoring use of the new remote channel selector system.

With the new system, it’s possible for one driver to be able to talk with more than a dozen other competitors, but not without the crew chief’s permission.

“We have created a one page, 16 channel crew chief signature page of what we’re going to program in that radio,” Cornacchia explained. “So a team goes to the crew chief of each car they want to talk to (outside that team’s organization) and gets their signature that they’re giving up permission to program that radio to transmit on their channel.”

This means that with the advent of the two-car draft, the deal making between teams isn’t confined to the track and pit road, it begins before race day in the garage. So don’t be surprised if the two-car draft dance card for some drivers isn’t filled.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 30 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Terry says:

    If they are smart they have the #21 keyed in …..
    that “kid” can flat out push a car to the from…..
    If this FORD is as fast as the last one WBR brought for the 500…
    then the #24..#99..or #14….
    should be calling their spotter to find the #21