"This project started over a year ago in concept and it really is about how we can get fans more engaged, allow them to see more of what's going on," said INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker. "If you're not in line of sight of a video screen or a scoring pylon, it's hard to know who's doing what. It was a natural to do the numbering system."
The 8-inch-wide by 7-inch-tall LED panels, which are only 3 millimeters thick, will be attached to either side of the airbox (below the cockpit camera mount) on each entry. Running order will be updated as the car crosses each of the multiple INDYCAR Timing & Scoring timelines around a racetrack.
"The LED displays are driven from a controller that is hooked into the car network," said INDYCAR director of Timing & Scoring Jon Koskey. "The controller can talk to the car ECU and pick up information live, so as a timeline is hit that information is put on the car network immediately. You'll see how many positions each car gained or lost live on any given lap. Red is the primary color and green will be used for the push-to-pass, which will be displayed as a pattern. Brightness of the LEDs will be modulated according to the setting."
INDYCAR will continue to develop the technology, including adjustments to the brightness of the display, based upon multiple factors.
"We had to take into consideration the brightness of the lights because this new LED technology is extremely bright," Koskey said. "At night you don't have to run it at full intensity. We can make modifications to the light panels in real time through the timelines by sending control codes. There are four levels of brightness, so we put into the system what we want. When the cars come into pit lane that display is going to be right in the fuel filler's face, so using the car data we programmed in that when the car drops below 10 mph it will dim to 25 percent. We're putting functionality into play. We have room down the road to do others things with it."
Additional options are also being considered, including adding an additional color, to expand the functionality.
"There are other things we can do with it as we look down the road," Walker said. "We'll start off small and get the fans engaged and understanding what it is doing. It's all about the fan experience."