It’s hard to view any acquisition by International Speedway Corporation (er… NASCAR) without massive trepidation as a race fan. The company monopolizes the schedule to the point that the substantive changes needed to give stock car racing’s big leagues the needed flavor and novelty to excite fans new and old aren’t going to come in my lifetime. Its acquisition of the ARCA Racing Series, while so far appearing to make sense on paper, still runs the risk of running off the family ventures that have made the series worth watching over the decades and leaves unanswered questions regarding the future of live pit stops in the minor leagues as the series begins to intertwine deeper with the K&N Pro Series.
And now today, we see its tentacles extending to the ears of many race fans with its acquisition of Racing Electronics. Anyone that’s been to a big-time NASCAR race this decade has seen R/E’s bright red trailers, and chances are they’ve used one of their radio scanners at least once.
This move scares me. I’ve owned an R/E scanner for as long as I’ve worked for Frontstretch, and in that time Racing Electronics’ customer service has been reliable and consistent from Fontana to Loudon. My scanner — at eight years old — still reliably powers up whenever I’m at the track (and no, this is not an advertisement posing as op/ed). The company has been one I can count on as a race fan, and I will give credit where it’s due.
The same can’t be said for NASCAR. While as a fan I’ve never had an issue at an ISC facility that would give me pause to come back, the reality is that ISC is an arm of NASCAR, and as much as I love NASCAR racing, it certainly knows how to mess up a good thing. So seeing it take ownership of R/E does not fill me with confidence.
But it also opens a big opportunity that should be explored.
Anyone that’s been to a race knows that having a radio to hear the drivers at work, to hear Chad Knaus and Paul Wolfe using code words during pit stops, to hear race control relaying its discoveries of debris on the track (sometimes) allows one to feel right smack in the action, even at facilities that go on for literal miles.
So make it complimentary. If you buy a ticket, we’ll loan you a scanner or a Fanvision. No deals, no upgrades. Truly complimentary.
Fans get converted by doing any experience the right way. And while there will always be those just there to people watch, at day’s end NASCAR needs fans who are there to watch the race. Having a scanner is essential to that happening.
During my time away from Frontstretch, one of the most memorable races I went to was with my sister at Richmond Raceway. It was her first race, and while she came to the track perfectly content to eat copious amounts of Bojangles and people-watch, the second we started listening to the drivers working on their cars, the spotters navigating the bullring and those wonderful pit road code words (she did ask me on Brad Keselowski’s first pit stop why he wanted a Mello Yello), that girl was flat hooked. Over the next three years while she was in medical school in Richmond, we were there every time NASCAR came to town.
No science or expert analysis to add here, just subjective firsthand experience. One of the coolest features of NASCAR racing is the accessibility the fans have to the action unfolding. NASCAR should facilitate such an experience, and now it has the means.
Standing by, ISC. I’ll be scanning.