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Race Scanning Tips & Hints
I have been scanning the track for almost 25 years. Long before the program could be programmed, my first hand-held scanner came with a large, old Bearcat 250 mobile phone scanner attached to a large 12-volt battery. The whole setup had to weigh 10 pounds and I had to wrap it around the big camera bag! I guarantee I was the only guy standing at The Milwaukee Mile to hear those USAC trucks back in the 1980s! Things have changed a bit since then.
Estimates are that probably more than 10% of fans at a typical NASCAR event are “equipped with a scanner”. Race track scanning has become very popular, it is well extended beyond NASCAR highways to dirt roads, drag lanes and even Saturday nights at local shortcuts. I have compiled a collection of tips and hints to help you get the most out of your racing scanning experience. If you have others who would like to add, please send it to me so we can share it with others. Enjoy!
Why take a scanner to the race? What can I hear?
Once you have been through the race with the scanner, you will be stuck forever. Scanning at races adds “dimensions” or layers to the experience. You will be able to hear the conversation between the driver, his crew and the observer. You will hear race officials and safety teams. You can even follow the “behind the scenes” activities of the TV and radio broadcast team. Important! One thing you may want to know about listening, communication, racing, it is not necessary for children! Emotions can run high during racing activities, and often the language can get a little “colorful” to put it mildly. You may want to consider this if you are easily offended by harsh language. What kind of equipment do I need to race? The two main elements of a race scanner setup are the self-scanner as well as the noise-canceling headphones.
First – the scanner. What kind of scanner do you need? It really depends on your needs or your budget. Almost every hand-made scanner will run at the race. They are available with less than 10 or 5000 channels! Prices wisely expect to cost anywhere from $ 75 to over $ 400. The most popular frequency ranges are 150 – 174 MHz and 450 – 470 MHz. There was some racing action, but not much in the 800 Megahertz band. Popular “racing” scanners are the Uniden Sportcat 200 and 230, Racing Electronics RE-2000 and Radio Shack Pro 99. Some of the really nice features are the Alpha screen, which allows you to write the driver’s name instead. Of frequency and CTCSS or sound function that allows you to encode a specific sound on the channel to help reduce interference.
The second thing you will need is good quality headphones to reduce noise. Extreme racing! Headphones can not only help protect your hearing, but they will also help you to hear your scanner more clearly. They are available in many styles to suit your personal preferences. You can also get a small foam device similar to what the driver wears. Some accessories that you can consider “racing” or antenna stub that will reduce interference in the base of the cable to help keep your scanner safe when watching races and splitter headphones or equipment. ” Boostaroo “so you can bring a second headset for your friends too. Do not forget the extra battery! There is nothing worse than running out of “water” halfway through a race. Where can I buy a race scan installation setup? You can purchase a complete installation near your local Radio Shack store. Some of the specialized vendors that sell racing scanners are Racing Electronics and Racing Radios.
If you are not sure if you are ready to buy an installation yet, most of these vendors offer rentals as well. These vendors have tuk-tuks that provide equipment at larger races.
OK, I have my scanner and headset now, where do I find the frequency?
While you can find some information for free on the internet, most of it is outdated, incomplete or just out of date. I highly recommend buying the latest information from the above vendors. It’s really worth it, it costs a few dollars. They have information about national series such as NASCAR, IRL, and Champ Car. Most of the latest scanners are computer programmable. You can even bring them to the seller’s clip on the track and get the latest frequencies instantly loaded on your radio while you wait.
The new Uniden SC230 scanner comes with frequencies for the Nextel Cup, Busch Grand National, Craftsman Trucks, Champ Car and IRL already included! For regional series, your options are limited. For Midwest fans, we have put together a Midwest Racing Frequencies website. It contains information for local tracks as well as local tour series such as ASA Late Models, Big 8 Series and MidAm Limited Late Models. Information on the Midwest Racing Frequencies website is available at;
At The Track Tips
1. Do as much as you can before leaving home. If you can get the frequency information before the race, you will save a lot of time by planning your scanner before you get on the road. Do not forget the extra battery, paper and pencil for notes and sunscreen. Packing a plastic bag to hold your scanner in case of sudden rain is also a nice addition.
2 – Introduction to the program. One popular trick is to write the frequency so the channel number is the same as the car number. For example, you would write Mark Martin, Car # 6 into Channel 6 on your scanner. That way, during the race, if you want to quickly switch to a specific car, you can switch to that channel manually. With newer scanners with alpha screens, it is easier to keep track of who is who.
3- Do not try to listen to everything! At a big race, a lot of things happen. Choose your leader or hobby and lock everything else. It also helps to have race management in your scan list. At the big races you can also listen to TV and radio broadcasts (MRN broadcasts on 454,000 Mhz). Some tracks will replay the PA on a scanner frequency or on a low power FM radio station. These broadcasts will “lock” your scanner since they are broadcast continuously. You will have to lock them out and switch to them manually if you want to listen.
4 – Get to the road soon. If there is a vendor selling racing frequencies there, it will give you a good chance to check it out or get your scanner programmed for you. Buy souvenirs. They will have a queue so you will know who to listen to.
5 – Practice and elimination is a good time to verify the frequency. Recording now will help you during the race. Listen to the observer and the captain talk to the driver. You may be able to tell “who is who” when crossing or entering a pit.
6 – When drivers get in their car before a race is a good time to listen to the radio. Suspensions and alert periods are also a time when radio traffic is on the rise.
7 – If you are using search mode on your scanner to try and find new frequencies, narrow down your search to a smaller range at the same time. The range from 450 to 470 Mhz will cover all race communications. Some race officials will use frequencies in the range of 150 – 174 Mhz. Even if you already have a valid list, you can usually find some new stuff using the search function.
8- Make a good note!
Using your scanner really adds a whole new dimension to the ‘racing experience “and other than that, it’s just plain fun! As you might say, scanning a race can seem a little difficult at first. The more you do the better. I went to races with almost no information and using these techniques found more than 90% of the track. When the race is over.
Enjoy the scan and see you at the race!
By Scott W. Lowry Editor, Midwest Racing Frequencies
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