NASCAR To Offer Live In-Car Camera Feeds of Every Car at Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Race
Cameras from BSI feed free streams to NASCAR Drive digital products via AWS
NASCAR will make some history this weekend. For the first time, every single car in the field of a NASCAR race will be outfitted with a live in-car camera.
It will happen this Sunday at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race set to air on USA Network beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
“People tune into a race and want to see what the driver’s going through,” says Steve Stum, VP, operations and technical production, NASCAR. “What’s the driver seeing? It’s very important to our sport — and all racing — to see that.”
Although all these feeds are available to NBC Sports for use in the live broadcast, this effort is designed largely for NASCAR’s suite of digital products. Every one of the in-car–camera feeds will be available to stream live at NASCAR Drive, NASCAR’s live race-day hub on both NASCAR.com and the NASCAR mobile app. Those video feeds are pushed to NASCAR Drive via Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“Our goal is to deliver an immersive experience for the most passionate fans in all of sports, no matter where they are,” Tim Clark, SVP/chief digital officer, NASCAR, said in an official release on Thursday morning. “We know the significant role second screens play in the overall viewing experience. So, providing live video from inside every car and alongside leaderboards, performance data, pit stats, live betting odds, and more is something we’re excited about.”
NASCAR worked with its longtime partner on in-car–camera technology, BSI (Broadcast Sports International, which is owned by NEP Broadcast Services), and NASCAR’s in-house competitions team (headed by SVP, Innovation and Racing Development, John Probst) to make this feat possible. It included an upgrade of the in-car–camera network 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 hub in the car so that we could transmit on two different frequencies depending on where the camera was going,” says Stum, a NASCAR broadcasting veteran of more than two decades. “Normal broadcast cameras work in the 1.4 GHz range, and these new webcams work on 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 the better part the season and that, heading into the weekend in Kansas City, the crew is feeling confident about it.
In-car cameras have been part of the NASCAR broadcast since the late 1970s. For many years, cameras in every car in the race has been a goal for NASCAR and its broadcast partners.
On Feb. 18, 1979, CBS broadcast the entirety of the Daytona 500 live for the first time. In that broadcast, a camera, weighing nearly 50 lb., was installed inside Benny Parsons’s 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.
In-car cameras had their breakout party in 1983 when Cale Yarborough won the Daytona 500 with another new model of the in-car camera aboard his car. The camera produced an unprecedented view of his celebration from the front dash.
In 1986, CBS earned national acclaim when it won a Sports Emmy for its use of the in-car camera on the Daytona 500. These days, NASCAR and BSI deploy a robust in-car–camera system that has as many as four cameras, including in holes carved in the front and rear bumpers.
For those working behind the scenes at both NBC and Fox, this weekend marks a historic milestone in live coverage of stock-car racing.
“I’ve been in this sport for a long time, and [Fox Sports SVP, Field Operations,] Mike Davis and I have talked about this for about 15 years: Why is there not a camera in every car?” says Stum. “In projects like this, you come with ideas and wait for technology to catch up. I think we finally had the opportunity where we could have the vision and put the package together. Cameras in every car: it’s going to be great.”
The second race of the NASCAR Playoffs Round of 16 will air this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.