Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Offering New View for Fans; Hand-Held Scanner Provides Video, Radio Access. Devices Rent for $50 to $70 at Tracks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Offering New View for Fans; Hand-Held Scanner Provides Video, Radio Access. Devices Rent for $50 to $70 at Tracks

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

ATLANTA -- Simple things have revolutionized the sport of auto racing.

Seat belts, fire suits and crash helmets may seem trite or primitive by today's standards, but those safety measures are barely a generation old.

Years from now, race fans might look back on Nextel's new FanView and wonder how fans used to watch races.

The hand-held device, which is made for use at the racetrack, can provide live in-car cameras, television replays, race statistics and tap in on a driver's two-way radio.

Nextel spent $1 billion developing the device. The company that owns the naming rights to NASCAR's premier racing series spent more than a year refining the quality of the video screen and building a wireless network that can handle 5,000 FanViews and as many as 250,000 cell phone calls at the same time on a race weekend.

"It is attractive," said Michael Robichaud, vice president of sponsorships for Sprint Nextel. "The idea of bringing video at the speed we bring it was definitely a technology issue. It was a spectrum that was very new to anyone."

Nextel rents the video scanners at each race for $50 a day or $70 a weekend. The company brings 5,000 of them -- they're about the size of a quarter-pound hamburger -- to each race this year. They've been sold out at most venues.

Fans can lock in their favorite drivers and listen to immediate and unedited conversations between driver and crew. The language is raw, prompting some, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team, to offer warnings before each race.

A fan can listen to his favorite driver while riding along and watching the in-car camera. And if anything is missed, FanView offers a playback feature.

At the same time, fans can watch in-car cameras from several top drivers, as well as the live television broadcast, racetrack video feed or radio broadcast. …

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