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I Lost At The Indy 500!

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SamSpade

Member
Joined
May 21, 2006
Messages
9
Hello,

I did my research, asked for advice on this forum, and spent my money – but I came up a big loser at this year’s Indy 500.

This was going to be my best effort to get an “inside listen” to the drivers and their crews. A few weeks before the race, I bought a new Uniden “TrunkTracker” (Model BCD396T) scanner, a small but sensitive AM/FM portable radio (Sangean Model DT-300VW), and a pair of Bose electronic noise cancelling headphones (QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling). The idea was, I would listen to the local AM broadcast of the race through one earphone, and listen to the chatter from the 6 drivers I was really interested in through the other earphone.

The company who sold me the Uniden scanner also included the frequencies for all of the Indy cars. But, to make sure, on the day of the race, I spent another $5 at the track to buy the most current list of frequencies. My seats were perfect: I had an unobstructed view of each pit. I was high up and opposite the pits.

At the start of the race, everything was programmed per the tips I received here on the forum: each of my favorite cars was assigned a Quick Button, a unique tone, and if the scanner stopped on one of my favorite car’s frequencies, the number of the car and the name of the driver appeared on the scanner.

Throughout the race I had great reception of the AM broadcast of the race. But, I only heard a few transmissions (most of which was garbled and unintelligible) from the cars or pits! The radio scanned just as predicted, but I could only hear one side of a few conversations and those were barely intelligible. The most frequent transmissions I received were from some food vendors who decided to use the same frequency as the car I hoped would win! When I got back home, I watched a TIVO taped version of the race. During the TV coverage, I heard many driver/crew conversations that were very interesting, but I completely missed those at the track.

I am going to another Indy car race in Kentucky in early August. I would really appreciate answers to the following questions, and any other advice you care to give to a rookie scanner and big loser at the Indy 500.

1. I used the antenna on the scanner that came with the scanner. It is about 5 ½ inches long. Was that antenna providing too much signal to the scanner (i.e., was it overloading the front-end of the receiver of the scanner)?
2. Did I need a better antenna to hear all of those conversations I had missed? For example, do I need a quarter wavelength antenna cut for the center of the Indy car frequencies?
3. I was not happy with the performance of the Bose headphones. While they did reduce the sound from the cars, it still wasn’t quiet enough to make out the content of some of the transmissions. I would like to buy another pair of phones (I will keep the Bose set for use on long flights). What set of headphones has the largest reduction in sound, expressed in dB’s and uses both passive and electronic sound attenuation?

Again, thanks for your help.

Sam
KK6BT
 

K9GTJ

Member
Joined
May 20, 2006
Messages
612
Location
Kokomo, IN
Sam - sorry to hear about your frustrations at the 500. I used a variety of sources including Race by Race (http://www.racebyrace.com/drivers/irldrivers.phtml?year=2006) and The Indianapolis Star. I ended up with a comprehensive list which I posted here - http://www.radioreference.com/forums/showpost.php?p=287029&postcount=16

I cannot say I had 100% of the drivers but I have all the important ones plus most most of the secondary drivers. I also had all the IRL frequencies too.

I programmed them into 2 scanners and was at carb day where I confirmed they were generally good.

How I programmed my main scanner was Bank 1 was the IRL with Race Control on priority. Bank 2 was Penske, Bank 3 was Ganassi, Bank 4 was Rahal-Letterman, Bank 5 was Andretti-Green, Bank 6 was other contenders like Cheever and Bank 7 was nobody drivers like P.J. Chesson. On drivers that I felt were worth my time (interest), I used the delay option. On the others, I had no delay.

I filled out the banks with odds and ends on Bank 8 like lifeline and the flyby and Radio and Media on Bank 9 and finally the PA and IMS broadcast on Bank 10. I also programmed the second scanner with the IRL, PA, and IMS radio plus the main drivers.

In the end, on the main scanner, I locked out the non contenders on Bank 7 and usually had the other combinded bank locked out. Natually I locked out the the media and radio broadcast on the main scanner and used the second scanner to monitor the radio usually during yellows. (I was on the inside of turn 3 taking pictures with my media credentials.)

I kept my scanners off until 1 hour before the race. At that point I went through and and locked out some of the frequencies with BS. These included the food vendors you mentioned or some of the larger race teams used a frequency for their hospitality people. I also found a few were in use locally including one by St. Vincents custodial staff.

Overall I can say I kept it simple and had good scanning luck. I programmed any frequency I found listed anywhere more than once for a driver. I also used the stock antennas on both scanners but picked up a stubby race antenna for a couple of dollars at a Radio Shack clearence sale this week.

My only advice is to go to a practice session if you can to try out what you have programmed.
 

n7lxi

Member
Joined
Jun 8, 2006
Messages
163
Location
Lancaster PA
To answer your first 2 questions, yes.

The antenna for your scanner is too big for racetrack use. For scanning NASCAR, rather than buying a "race antenna", I actually just use a BNC connector, with no antenna at all. I find that it attenuates the signal enough that I'm not overloading the front end of the scanner. If you want a race antenna, most of the scanner vendors at the track sell them, Radio Shack has them or you can buy one online:

http://www.racingradios.com/browseproducts/Race-Antenna.html

As for the headphones, you really need something that'll provide a substantial attenuation of the track noise to be able to make sense of the chatter on the radio, get at least 24dB of noise reduction. Again, most of the race track scanner guys will sell you a pair. I use a set of David Clark's and interface them with my two way radio when I'm working at the track. That's overkill for scanning, but you (and your ears) will thank me after you use a decent racing headset at a race or two. I have a set for scanning from Racing Radios that I really like. Also, the guys from racing radios are decent. They've done a lot of stuff for us, they have service at most of the tracks and their stuff will take being thrown in a bag and bashed around. Take a look here:

http://racingradios.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=12

Chances are you’ll find something you’ll like. Also, try renting a pair before you buy.

Rob
N7LXI
 

SamSpade

Member
Joined
May 21, 2006
Messages
9
Thanks again, Kokomo1

Hi Kokomo1,

Thanks for all of the information on finding the frequencies for the cars at Indy.

I don’t think my lack of success was the failure to program the correct frequencies. My problem was, I heard very little traffic—perhaps a garbled transmission about every 4 or 5 minuets. So, I am trying to figure out if the problem was with the new scanner, the stock antenna for the scanner, or my headphones.

Your idea of going to carb day is an excellent tip. Next time, I will do the same so I will know if I have a problem BEFORE the race.

Since you used the stock antenna, maybe that rules out the possible overload of the front end of my scanner. I have less than one month to sort this out before the next Indy Car Race. Would you help me by responding to the following questions?

1. I mentioned in my first post that I was sitting directly across from the pits and up high. I thought that would be a great seat for scanning since the crew’s transmitters and antennas were located there. Since you were inside turn 3, you were much farther from the pits than I was. Could this account for the non-overload of your scanners? Were you able to hear the pits or only the cars near you?

2. You were listening for many more cars than I was. About how often, on the average, did you hear a transmission? (Since I am so new to this aspect of racing, I have no idea what I should be expecting. For example, should I expect to hear the pit transmission to the car and a reply from the car?)

3. Why did you use the delay option for the drivers you were especially interested in?


Thanks for your help. Sam
 

SamSpade

Member
Joined
May 21, 2006
Messages
9
Great Tips, Rob!

Hi Rob,

Thanks for responding to my post.

Regarding my original questions numbered 1 and 2, I am not sure I understood your answer. I was trying to sort out if I had too much RF coming into my scanner (I was sitting directly across from the pits) or if I did not have enough signal coming in. Should I buy an antenna cut for the frequencies used at Indy Car races or just terminate the scanner with 50 ohms and use no exterior antenna?

Thanks for the tip about the David Clark headphones. I have found their web site and am looking for the lowest price for a headphone that includes active and passive noise reduction. (As you probably know, there is a lot of deceptive advertising out there regarding the amount of noise attenuation a pair of headphones will give you. If they give you a number, they don’t tell you what band of frequencies is attenuated. The worst is Bose who won’t even state what their claimed attenuation is!)

The only complication is that my wife wants to listen during the race and wants to be able to talk to me. So, I need two pairs of headphones that are attached to each other and can communicate with each other. I will keep searching! However, I am under the gun – it is less than 30 days ‘till the next Indy Car race.

Thanks again. I really appreciate your helping a real new comer to the hobby.

Sam
KK6BT
 

UPMan

Uniden Representative
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Apr 19, 2004
Messages
13,287
Location
Arlington, TX
Headphones: I use the Koss behind-the-head style (RadioShack sells their version as Cat. # 33-1158). Has about 20dB of noise reduction. I was standing in the pits, next to the rail during the race and had no problem hearing (have also used them up in the stands). Plus, since the spring that squeezes them on your head is behind your neck you can still wear a baseyball cap.

Scanning: If you listen to just 1 driver, you could hear either a little traffic (maybe once ever 5 laps) or near continuous. It just depends. If you are scanning them all, you'll have nearly continuous hits while the race is going. I usually listen in on whoever is in 2nd or 3rd place...that is where you'll find most of the strategizing going on. From the leader you just hear "Looking good" and "keep it up."

Frequencies: I get it programmed at the track, but that is probably not an option with the 396. The trailers are set up to program the SC230, but few can even do the BR330T, yet, and none of them will be able to handle the 396. I preprogrammed it with all the drivers names and what frequencies I knew (or suspected). Then bought a list at the race...adding in or changing the frequencies took no time at all since the names (which are what take the longest to program) were already stored.

In addition to the race freq's, be sure to program in all the public safety for the surrounding area. Sheriff and local PD is heavily involved in pre- and post-race traffic control (and listening in can sometimes yield some good pointers as to which way you should head in or out...or just find a place to park and cool it for a while). EMS and Fire response both for anything that might happen on the roads to/from the track and on the race course.

Reception: Just about anything (or even nothing at all) will work for the stuff at the track where you can see the entire oval.

I've scanned multiple NASCAR events at both Texas Motor Speedway and Lowes Motor Speedway...had a blast during all the ones that didn't get rained out!
 

n7lxi

Member
Joined
Jun 8, 2006
Messages
163
Location
Lancaster PA
Hi Sam, My guess is the front end of your scanner was overloaded with signal. The track is FULL of RF, and while you only want to hear a little of it, (the pit crew/driver) your poor radio has to deal with constant telemetry from the cars, RF from the broadcast teams, security, vendors, lots of FRS radios and tons more... I've found that listening to one or two drivers with no antenna or a stub race antenna works for me.

As for the headphones, you really want to find some with at least 20 dB of noise reduction. You can find a set of headphones at racing radios that'll connect two pairs to to a scanner and work as an intercom as well. (I've never tried them, but my buddy and his wife swear by them.) You'll find that the good headsets use passive attenuation... a good tight fit will make all the difference.
 
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