1. Do as much as you can before you leave the house.
If you can get a hold of frequency information before the race, you’ll save a ton of time by pre-programming your scanner before you get to the track. Don’t forget extra batteries, paper and pencil to take notes, and sunscreen. Packing a plastic bag to put your scanner into in case of a sudden rain shower is a good addition, too.
2. Programming tip.
One popular trick is to program the frequencies so the channel number is the same as the car number. For example, you would program Mark Martin, Car #6 into channel 6 on your scanner. That way during the race, if you want to quickly switch to a particular car, you can just manually switch to that channel. With the newer scanners with alpha displays, it’s much easier to keep track of who’s who.
3. Don’t try to listen to everything!
At a big race, there’s just way too much stuff going on. Pick the leaders or your favorites and lock everything else out. It helps to have race control in your scan list too. At the big races, you can also listen to the TV and radio broadcast feed (MRN broadcasts on 454.000 Mhz). Some tracks will rebroadcast the track PA on either a scanner frequency or a low power FM radio station. These broadcasts will “lock up” your scanner though, since they broadcast continuously. You will have to lock them out and switch to them manually if you want to listen in.
4. Get to the track early.
If there is a vendor selling race frequencies there, this will give you a good chance to check it out or get your scanner programmed for you. Buy a souvenir program. They will have the line ups so you’ll know who to listen for.
5. Verify frequencies.
Practice and qualifying are a great time to verify frequencies. Taking notes now will help you during the race. Listen for the spotters and crew chiefs talking to the drivers. You may be able to tell "who’s who" when passing or coming in to the pits.
6. Radio Check
When the drivers are getting into their cars before the race is a good time to listen in for radio checks. Pace laps and caution periods are also the time when radio traffic increases.
7. Searching on Scanner
If you’re using the search mode on your scanner To try and find new frequencies, narrow your search to smaller ranges at a time. The range of 450 to 470 Mhz will cover just about all race communications. Some racing officials will use frequencies in the 150 - 174 Mhz range. Even if you have an accurate list already, you can usually find some new stuff by using the search feature.
8. Take good notes!
Using your scanner really adds a new dimension to the 'racing experience" and besides that, it’s just plain FUN! As you can tell, race scanning might seem like a bit of a challenge at first. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. I have gone to a race with almost no information and, by using these techniques, have found more than 90% of the field by the time the race was over.
Happy scanning and see you at the races!