Daytona 500: NASCAR Productions Relies on Charlotte for Remote Production of International Feed
A small number of staffers will be onsite at the track
There are die-hard racing fans who attend almost every Daytona 500, and then there’s Steve Stum. As NASCAR Productions VP, operations and technical production, he has been present for this special race at Daytona International Speedway since 1986. With most of the international feed being remotely produced in Charlotte, NC, that 34-year run will come to an end on Sunday.
“Super Bowl LV was last weekend, and now we have our Super Bowl this weekend,” he says. “Not being there is going to feel strange.”
Remote Racing: Charlotte Staff Takes the Wheel
The remote-production route isn’t new to NASCAR Productions. Many resources were generated from an offsite location in 2020, and, with the ongoing pandemic, the logical decision was to shift even more workflows to headquarters in Charlotte. Built atop two 10G circuits of AT&T’s Global Video Services network, the hub in Charlotte will be connected to the race in Daytona.
“All of the content will move around like a normal production,” Stum explains. “We’re setting up a couple of remote command centers: [Fox will] use our transmission room in Charlotte as a command center with comms, and we’ve set up another one away from the track. Some of the officials who we don’t want in an [onsite] bubble will watch the race and talk to the people up in the tower remotely.”
The international feed is one of many jobs that NASCAR Productions will facilitate on Sunday. This year’s effort will handle nearly a dozen feeds and will reach 200 countries (an increase of 15 from last year’s 185 countries and territories), as well as military personnel on the Armed Forces Network.
Trackside Ops: Minimal Onsite Presence Connects HQ to Daytona
Although a big chunk of NASCAR Productions’ efforts will be 475 miles north of the track, members of the team will be in Daytona. Besides three separate bubbles for onsite personnel and the Fox Sports team — the television compound and garages/pit road being two of them — NEP’s SRT mobile unit will house these staffers, enabling them to make contact with Stum and his crew in Charlotte. The truck will also tap into the shared resources of Fox Sports’ Game Creek Video trucks in the compound.
“We’ve tried to minimize people moving back and forth between positions by assigning them to certain crews,” says Stum. “Some will be working in the garage and pit road and won’t be able to come into the TV compound; others will be up in the tower dealing with cameras, fiber, and electronics on the roof for race control. We’re trying not to cross-pollinate too much.”
Since there will be a mixture of offsite and onsite staffers, a reliable line of communication will be necessary to keep them all on the same page. Working hand-in-hand with Fox Sports also will be a little more difficult without crew members not allowed in neighboring mobile units.
“We work well with [SVP, Technical and Field Operations] Mike Davies, [VP, Field Operations and Engineering] Kevin Callahan, and the crew of Fox Sports,” notes Stum. “Last year, I’d walk out of my truck, walk over to their truck, and we’d talk in person. Now it’s a phone call, a meeting on Zoom, or an email. We have a great relationship, so it goes a long way to making this work.”
Full Speed Ahead: Preparing for a Race Unlike Any Other
This year’s race will be different from any other in NASCAR history. Although there won’t be sold-out seats and the roar of the crowd that the Daytona 500 is known for, there is the chance for more fans returning in later stages of the 2021 season. Away from the track, NASCAR is working with medical experts for guidance as large-scale rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues.
“We have a really good medical team that [NASCAR VP, Racing Operations] John Bobo has set up with some epidemiologists that are consultants on President Biden’s staff,” adds Stum. “They’ve guided us when the virus is at its peak, when it has gone down, and now with the distribution of a vaccine.”
On an operational side, NASCAR Productions is leaning toward bringing back its heavy onsite presence in the summer. Until then, fans around the country and the globe will still receive high-quality racing content and live action without seeing any difference.
“We’ve continued to push through and get things done,” Stum says. “We’re just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and we’ll look to get there in a safe way.”