LEXINGTON, Ohio -- The light-emitting diode (LED) panels displaying a car’s real-time running position on track made their Verizon IndyCar Series debut in practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. They were an immediate hit with fans and an accepted addition with crews for the good of the sport.
The LED panels are attached to both sides of a car's airbox, below the camera mount and roll hoop. The current running position of each car is displayed in red numbers and updated multiple times each lap as cars cross the many timing lines embedded in every track. A running clock will display a car’s pit stop time in green lights on the panel and a flashing green “PP” will indicate when a driver activates the push-to-pass button on the car at road and street course events.
Fan reaction was typified by Lance Fulks, a Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course race attendee for a dozen years stationed at his normal spot along the fence in the final turn of the 2.258-mile road course.
“I think it’s a really nice addition,” said Fulks, from Coshocton, Ohio. “Year after year, watching, it was hard to tell who’s leading the race, what position (a car is running) because you can’t see much of the track from any one position. You don’t see the passes, that type of thing, so it’s really nice to have (the LED panels). Even with all the sunlight, it’s easy to see them.”
Michael Cannon, race strategist for Tristan Vautier in the Dale Coyne Racing No. 19 Honda, looked at it – typically – from an engineering perspective.
“We just look at it being more weight on the car and go, ‘Oh, great, just what we needed.’ ” Cannon said. “For the show, I think it’s beneficial.
“You get some places like Indy – 500 miles, people on different strategies, etc. – sometimes it gets a little tricky for people to keep track. I know I’ve sat in the grandstands during the Indy 500 and even I have a hard time following it sometimes. I’m a believer in it.”
Paul “Ziggy” Harcus is race strategist for Carlos Munoz in the No. 26 Andretti TV/Cinsay Honda. He, too, understands the panels are beneficial for fans and good for Indy car racing. He holds one concern.
“We have a little light that sits right below the roll hoop, above the fuel (intake nozzle) and we use that to tell our guys when to pull (the fuel hose out during a pit stop),” Harcus explained. “Right now, we’re worried that as (the LED lights are) clipping on and off during a pit stop, it’s right in front of the fueler’s face, so I worry that it may be a distraction to him.
“Hopefully the fans like it and if that’s what they like, then we should do it.”