With only six laps to go, Brad Keselowski roared past Kyle Busch’s yellow No. 18 car to take the lead for good.
It was the defining moment in Monday’s Kobalt 400 as Keslowski held on for his second win in three years at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), and it happened on the far side of the track—far from the many thousands in attendance. But while some only heard the roar of the engines, others were privy to an extra layer of intrigue.
“I wish there was more I could do, but I don’t have it,” a conquered Busch told his team-mates — and, indirectly, many attendees listening on Racing Electronics headphones — as Keselowski’s car sped past.
With the headsets, fans can listen to the radio broadcast to keep up with all of the action on the track, or they select any car and listen to the interaction between the driver and crew. The headsets can be rented for $40 at the track, or purchased online with extra features for as much as $600.
“I can listen in to my driver and his spotter, which is pretty amazing itself,” said race fan Robert Boyer of Colorado, who purchased a headset at the last race he attended. “It’s awesome to listen to that spotter constantly telling him ‘left, right, watch this, watch that.’ And if I get bored of that, I can switch over to the radio broadcast and actually hear it instead of trying to overhear it on the loudspeaker with all of the noise in the stadium.”
The feed is live, so when things get heated on the track, the fan is right there in the middle of it.
“Oh, it’s uncensored for sure,” Boyer said. “If they get penalized or whatever, and tempers flare, you start hearing things and it’s not censored at all.”
The headsets have become extremely popular and can be seen throughout the stands. For many fans, they have replaced traditional earplugs.
“It muffles the sound,” said Wyoming resident Brad Shannon, who was experiencing LVMS for the first time. “It’s too loud, so you might as well have this on and be listening to something.”
The controls are simple. Type the number of the car you want to listen to, hit enter, and you are instantly inside the helmet of that car’s driver.
With small screen option
Racing Electronics also sells and rents an upgraded version of the headset with a small screen made by FanVision showing the live television broadcast of the race.
That kicks up the rental price to $60, and it allows the user to watch either the traditional broadcast or any driver’s in-car camera. The display also includes live stats and analysis, season standings and even driver biographies.
“It’s pretty nice because you can watch the actual racers,” said Colorado resident Josh Lobato, who makes the trip to Las Vegas for the race every year with his wife. “You look at whoever you want and see where they are at on the track.”
Lobato has rented the headset for the past three years and said he would never go back to watching the race without it.
“It’s so much different without them because just sitting there for 270 laps gets a little boring,” Lobato said.
While the banter between driver and spotter appeals to most, it’s not for everyone.
“I just mainly like to listen to the broadcast,” Lobato said. “I’ll listen to the drivers every now and then, but that’s about it because you can’t really understand them. They’re usually yelling and screaming.”
Screaming, perhaps, like Keselowski did as he rolled past the checkered flag.
“Thank you everybody,” Keselowski praised his crew over the radio. “Thank you so much!”
In true Las Vegas spirit, Keselowski and his team gambled near the race’s end by opting not to refuel, a move that eventually allowed him to beat out Busch and Jimmie Johnson.
And all who donned the headphones listened right along.