Many auto racing fans follow the IndyCar Series with great interest, whether in person at the various race tracks, or as armchair spectators. In competitive racing split-second timing is essential to determine results, and IndyCar Racing has a state-of-the-art timing and scoring system which ensures that results are accurate to the ten-thousandth of a second.
Each car is fitted with a radio transponder that has a unique identification number. This transponder is installed 33 inches from the tip of the nose cone of the car on the left hand side of the driver. At multiple strategic points located around the track, detection loop antennas are buried in the track surface. These antennas detect the transponder as the car passes and record the identification number and the passing time of each car. Each antenna is connected to a trackside decoder that records the information and relays it to the timing and scoring booth. In the timing and scoring booth, primary and secondary scoring computers (or servers) process the incoming information to determine the results of a session. The computers record the results of each session and all data relating to each individual identification number, including times achieved over predetermined sections of the track as programmed into the system.
In addition to the main electronic timing system of transponder and antenna, a high-speed camera, taking a picture every ten-thousandth of a second, is used to record all activity past the start/finish line. As a further back-up, two high frame rate cameras, which are connected to a digital video system, are used to record start/finish passings. As a final back-up, individual serial scorers provide a written manual scoring record of all start/finish line passings. These timing methods have proven to be invaluable in determining placements in races where the difference can be as little as .005 of a second.
To ensure that each team is aware of what is happening throughout the race, the scoring computers send live timing data to the team’s pit stand. All the data which is recorded at every race event is made available via the internet to interested parties, including teams, race officials and manufacturers.
Based on data collected during an IndyCar Series race, points are awarded to the first 33 competitors, with first place receiving 50 points, and the number of points decreasing per placement. Additionally, three bonus points are awarded to the competitor who leads the most laps in each race.
The fact that such precise timing measures need to be in place is an indication of how fierce the competition is in the IndyCar Series – and auto racing in general. It is this competitive spirit that serves to increase the excitement of a racing event, and keeps auto racing fans coming back for more.