New gadget enhances NASCAR experience

With FanVision, NASCAR fans -- and race teams -- can gather insight during races like never before. Bryan Christie Design

For years, race fans have been using scanners to listen to their favorite drivers whine like toddlers being escorted from the candy aisle -- normally something you can get only by watching at home. However, the latest generation of in-race technology allows fans behind the catch fence to customize their racing experience by combining audio, video and lap stats.

This season, NASCAR signed a five-year deal with FanVision, which also provides handheld devices for 12 NFL teams, University of Michigan football and 19 Formula One races. Now stock car fans can buy the controller ($299) or rent one at the track ($59.99 for the weekend) and experience eight onboard cameras, a live broadcast feed (via a dedicated venue network), data and stats, official timing and even instant replay on the handheld's 4.3-inch screen.

But sunburnt race fans aren’t the only ones clamoring for the insight. Teams -- and even drivers -- have latched on to the device. Brad Keselowski’s spotter, Joey Meier, doesn’t head to the roof without one.

“The timing and scoring information is valuable,” he says. “There’s one data page I use that has five windows -- the leader’s speed, your speed, the guy in front of you’s speed, the guy behind you’s speed and the fastest car on the track. I look at that so if Brad is catching someone or someone is catching him, we know it right away by comparing times.

“We use it during practice too, and Brad even has one in the car to look at other people’s lap times. It helps us figure out how good we actually are doing.”

It’s also popular in the infield. Ryan Newman’s wife, Krissie, uses it in the motor coach where she and daughter Brooklyn watch the live feed without a satellite delay.

“I’ll pay attention to that more than I’ll watch the television because there are a lot of commercials on TV,” she says. “I use the timing and scoring in a split screen because I like to pay attention to his lap times. I’m not that tech savvy, so there are a lot of bells and whistles on there that I need to figure out.”

And FanVision is still adding other features. Soon the devices will allow NASCAR enthusiasts to communicate with other fans, order food and concessions from their seats and even interact with the on-track action.

If only it could figure out how to wait in line for the restroom.