NASCAR will offer live on-board camera feeds of every car during this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race
BSI’s cameras provide free feeds to NASCAR Drive digital products
NASCAR will make history this weekend. For the first time, every car in the field of a NASCAR race will be equipped with a live on-board camera.
It will happen this Sunday at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race that will air on USA Network starting at 3 p.m. ET.
“People tune into a race and want to see what the rider is going through,” says Steve Stum, Vice President, Operations and Technical Production, NASCAR. “What does the driver see?” It’s very important for our sport – and for all races – to see that.
While all of these streams are available to NBC Sports for use in live streaming, this effort is designed largely for NASCAR’s suite of digital products. Each of the dash cam feeds will be available to stream live on NASCAR Drive, NASCAR’s live race day hub at NASCAR.com and the NASCAR mobile app. These video streams are transmitted to NASCAR Drive via Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“Our goal is to provide an immersive experience for the most passionate fans of all sports, wherever they are,” Tim Clark, SVP/Digital Director, NASCAR, said Thursday morning in an official statement. “We know the important role second screens play in the overall viewing experience. So providing live video from inside each car and alongside standings, performance data, pit stats, live betting odds, and more is something we are passionate about.
NASCAR worked with its long-time in-car camera technology partner, BSI (Broadcast Sports International, owned by NEP Broadcast Services), and NASCAR’s in-house competition team (led by SVP, Innovation and Race Development, John Probst) to make this feat possible. It included an upgrade to the on-board camera array to 1080p and ensured that the design of NASCAR’s new Next Gen car, which debuted at the start of the 2022 season, accommodated a standard camera mount near the rearview mirror.
“We redesigned the car hub so we could transmit on two different frequencies depending on where the camera was pointing,” says Stum, a NASCAR broadcast veteran of more than two decades. “Normal broadcast cameras operate in the 1.4 GHz range, and these new webcams operate in the 7 GHz spectrum. So we had to work to find the spectrum and do some testing and make sure it would work in the higher spectrum.
He notes that the system has been tested at NASCAR races for most of the season and heading into the weekend in Kansas City, the crew feels confident about it.
On-board cameras have been a part of NASCAR broadcasting since the late 1970s. For many years, cameras in every car in the race were a focus for NASCAR and its broadcast partners.
On February 18, 1979, CBS broadcast the entire Daytona 500 live for the first time. In this show, a camera, weighing nearly 50 pounds, was installed inside Benny Parsons’ car. In 1981, cars driven by Terry Labonte and Richard Childress were equipped with cameras that added the ability to pan and tilt via remote control.
Dashcams had their party in 1983 when Cale Yarborough won the Daytona 500 with another new model of dashcam in his car. The camera produced an unprecedented view of his celebration from the front dashboard.
In 1986, CBS garnered national acclaim by winning a Sports Emmy for its use of the dash cam on the Daytona 500. These days, NASCAR and BSI are deploying a robust dash cam system that has up to four cameras, including in the holes cut into the front and rear bumpers.
For those working behind the scenes at NBC and Fox, this weekend marks a historic milestone in live stock car racing coverage.
“I have practiced this sport for a long time and [Fox Sports SVP, Field Operations,] Mike Davis and I’ve been talking about this for about 15 years: why isn’t there a camera in every car? said Stum. “In projects like this, you come up with ideas and wait for technology to catch up with you. I think we finally had the opportunity to have the vision and put the package together. Cameras in every car: that’s going to be great.
Race two of the NASCAR Playoffs Round of 16 airs this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.