Convos With My 2 Year Old Season 2 Episode 6 Race Scanning Tips & Hints

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Race Scanning Tips & Hints

I have been scanning at the racetracks for almost 25 years. Long before programmable, handheld scanners, my first scanning setup consisted of a big old Bearcat 250 mobile scanner taped to a huge 12-volt flashlight battery. The whole setup must have weighed 10 pounds and I had to carry it in a big camera bag! I guarantee I was the only guy in the stands at The Milwaukee Mile listening to those USAC stock cars go around in 1980! Things have changed a bit since then.

Estimates are that there may be more than 10% of fans at a typical NASCAR event are “scanner equipped”. Speedway scanning has become so popular, it has expanded far beyond the NASCAR super-speedways to the dirt tracks, drag strips, and even on Saturday nights at the local short tracks. I’ve compiled a collection of tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your racing scanning experience. If you have others to add, please send them to me so we can share them with others. Enjoy!

Why bring a scanner to the races? What can I hear?

Once you’ve experienced racing with a scanner, you’ll be hooked forever. Scanning at the races adds that extra “dimension” or layer to the experience. You will be able to listen to conversations between the driver, his crew and the observers. You will hear the race officials and safety crews. You’ll even be able to check out the “behind the scenes” action of the TV and radio crews. IMPORTANT! One thing you might want to be aware of about listening to racial communications, it’s not necessarily for kids! Emotions can run high during racing action and quite often, the language can get a little “colorful” so to speak. You may want to consider this if you are easily offended by harsh language. What equipment do I need at the races? The two main elements of a racing scanning setup are the scanner itself and also a noise-reducing headset.

First- The scanner. What kind of scanner will you need? It really depends on your needs or your budget. Almost any portable scanner made will work at the races. They are available with just 10 or even 5000 channels! Price wise, expect to spend anywhere from as little as $75 to over $400. The most popular frequency ranges are 150 – 174 Megahertz and 450 – 470 Megahertz. There is some, but not much racing activity in the 800 Megahertz band. Popular “racing” scanners are the Uniden Sportcat 200 and 230, Racing Electronics RE-2000, and the Radio Shack Pro 99. A couple of features that are really nice to have are alpha displays that let you program the driver name instead. of just the frequency, and a CTCSS or tone function that allows you to program a certain tone code on a channel to help reduce interference.

The second thing you’ll need is a good quality, noise-cancelling headset. Running is HOT! Not only will a headset help protect your hearing, but it will help you be able to hear your scanner more clearly. They are available in several styles to suit your personal preference. You can also get the small, foam, in-ear devices similar to what the drivers wear. Some other accessories you might consider are a “race” or stub antenna that will help reduce local interference, a leg strap to help keep your scanner secure while watching the race, and a headphone splitter or “Boostaroo” unit so that you can bring a second headphone so your friend can listen too. Don’t forget extra batteries! Nothing worse than running out of “juice” halfway through the race. Where can I buy a course scan setup? You can buy a complete setup as close as your local Radio Shack store. Some specialty vendors that sell racing equipment are Racing Electronics and Racing Radios.

If you’re not sure if you’re ready to buy a set up yet, most of these vendors also offer rentals. These vendors have trailers offering equipment from most of the larger races.

Ok, I have my scanner and headset, now where do I find the frequencies?

While you can find some information for free on the Internet, most of it is outdated, incomplete, or just plain wrong. I highly recommend purchasing up-to-date information from one of the vendors above. It is well worth the few dollars it costs. They have information about the national series such as NASCAR, IRL, and Champ Car. Most of the newer scanners are computer programmable. You can even bring those to the vendor trailer at the track and get the latest frequencies loaded right into your radio while you wait.

The new Uniden SC230 scanner comes with the frequencies for Nextel Cup, Busch Grand National, Craftsman Trucks, Champ Car and IRL already programmed into it! For regional series, your options are more limited. For Midwest fans, we’ve put together the Midwest Racing Frequencies website. It contains information for local tracks as well as regional touring series such as ASA Late Models, Big 8 Series, and MidAm Limited Late Models. Information on the Midwest Racing Frequencies website can be found at; www.midwestracingfrequencies.com

At The Track Tips

1 – Do as much as you can before you leave the house. If you can get frequency information before the race, you will save a lot of time by pre-programming your scanner before you get to the track. Don’t forget extra batteries, paper and pencil for taking notes, and sunscreen. Also packing a plastic bag to put your scanner in in case of sudden rain is a good addition.

2 – Advice on programming. One popular trick is to program the frequencies so the channel number is the same as the car number. For example, you would program Mark Martin, Car #6 into channel 6 on your scanner. That way during the race, if you want to quickly switch to a particular car, you can just manually switch to that channel. With the newer scanners with alpha screens, it is much easier to keep track of who is who.

3 – Don’t try to listen to everything! At a big race, there are just way too many things going on. Select the leaders or your favorites and lock everything else. It also helps to have a race check in your scan list. At the big races, you can also listen to the TV and radio broadcast source (MRN broadcasts on 454.000 Mhz). Some tracks will rebroadcast the track PA on either a scanner frequency or a low power FM radio station. These broadcasts will however “lock up” your scanner as they broadcast continuously. You will have to lock them and switch to them manually if you want to listen.

4 – Get to the track early. If there is a vendor selling running frequencies out there, this will give you a good chance to check it out or program your scanner for you. Buy a memory program. They will have the queues so you know who to listen for.

5 – Practicing and qualifying is a great time to check frequencies. Taking notes now will help you on the run. Listen to the spotters and skippers talking to the drivers. You may be able to tell “who’s who” when you pass by or come to the pits.

6 – When the drivers get into their cars before the race, it’s a good time to listen to radio checks. Fast laps and caution periods are also the time when radio traffic increases.

7 – If you are using the search mode on your scanner to try to find new frequencies, narrow your search to smaller ranges at a time. The range of 450 to 470 Mhz will cover almost all race communications. Some race officials will use frequencies in the 150 – 174 Mhz range. Even if you already have an accurate list, you can usually find new things using the search function.

8 – Take good notes!

Using your scanner really adds a new dimension to the “racing experience” and on top of that, it’s just plain FUN! As you can tell, race scanning might seem a bit challenging at first. The more you do it, the better you I went to a race with almost no information and, using these techniques, found more than 90% of the field by the time the race was over.

Happy scanning and see you at the races!

By Scott W. Lowry Editor, Midwest Racing Frequencies

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