NASCAR Noise Levels – Is the sport too loud?
Psst, hey! Listen… NASCAR noise, it’s important. It’s embedded into the core DNA of the sport. It’s hard to imagine NASCAR without the noise.
However, PC Principal has stepped into our noisy auditorium. Over the load speaker, he claims that the sport is too loud. Now, NASCAR is looking for solutions.
Just how loud is NASCAR anyway? In 2005, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study on NASCAR noise decibels. In that study it was discovered that noise exceeds 140 decibels, continuously. That’s in the range of rock concerts, jet engines and firearms. All the things NASCAR fans love, in one sentence.
Where did they conduct that study? Bristol Motor Speedway, not only is it the World Fastest Half Mile but it’s also the loudest sports stadium in the world. The sound of NASCAR engines ricochet off the aluminum colosseum seating and back to your ear drum.
Following the 2017 Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip spoke with Sporting News about NASCAR noise levels. He offered additional suggestions on top of his complaint.
The NASCAR driver explained, “I think the cars are too loud. I’d like to hear — I’d like to see NASCAR work with the manufacturers to — when I raced the 24 hours of Daytona or 24 hours of Le Mans, you’d hear a Ferrari come by and you’d know it was a Ferrari. I think it would be cool if a Ford sounded like a Ford, a Toyota like a Toyota and a Chevy a Chevy, and those manufacturers worked together with NASCAR just to make them sound cool.
He continued, “Right now they’re obnoxious and I guess I’ve gotten old because it really gets on my nerves, but that’s one thing. I think that could be cool add another element so the fans can identify with the cars better. I also think they should have brake lights so fans could see when they’re letting off, when they’re hitting the brakes and if and how. Those could be LED’s across the back windshields.”
I like that last part, I think. The cookie cutter tracks are also filled with cookie cutter cars. A fix to that issue could come with a downside, a massive difference in manufactures could also cause a massive performance gap. If one manufacture is significantly better than the rest, the racing suffers.
This is exactly why we have cookie-cutter cars in the first place, it makes the racing better. Instead of having a handful of cars on the lead lap at the end of a 3 hour race, we have half the field. If NASCAR could somehow keep the performance levels close, while at the same time letting manufactures run in their own directions, I’m all for it.
All us old timers can’t hear anymore.
However, it’s not just Michael Waltrip. Since, more drivers have spoken out on the topic. Mark Martin was vocal on the subject via twitter, “Since the 90s I supported mufflers ASA did it and gained HP don’t make them quiet just take the edge off All us old timers can’t hear anymore.”
Current NASCAR crew chief Jason Ratcliff has an opposing view. He spoke on the noise topic via ‘The Late Shift’ on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio channel 90. The #20 Toyota chief downplayed the idea of reducing NASCAR noise. While simultaneously laughing, “Why would you want to do that?” But he didn’t stop there, “I think make ’em louder, not make ’em quieter.”
A proposed change has been placed on the very busy NASCAR drawing board. It’s a quieter solution and it could take effect in all 3 of the top tiers of NASCAR. What’s the reasoning? To allow fans to talk to each other.
I’m not sure I buy that. I’ve never been to a race and wished the cars were quieter just so I could talk to my grandstand neighbors.
Racing Electronics has already come up with a modern, tech based solution to the age old race-day problem of ‘quiet racing fans’. One of their headset/scanner packages also comes with two way radios. That allows you to talk to your neighbor, without the need to yell into their eardrum. The problem is, for just two radios the ‘black package’ retails at $1,599.95.
I don’t think this has anything to do with NASCAR’s concerns that fans can’t talk during the race. Nobody goes to a movie and thinks “Man I love this movie but I really wish I could talk.”
I think this is more NASCAR jumping ahead of possible problems in the future. 140 decibels, is loud. Without the correct protection, those levels could net health problems. That’s lawsuit territory. Yet, when noise canceling headsets cost upwards of $100+, it’s a difficult thing to require of your spectators. A simpler solution is to lower the noise of NASCAR engines.
Do NASCAR noise levels scare off new-comer fans? Or does the noise act as a marketing tool and do the exact opposite? Brian France wants everyone to be a NASCAR fan. It’s highly unlikely that everyone likes the noise, but NASCAR fans love that noise! Taking that away is a huge step in the continuum of turning your head to the current fanbase in search of the new PC crowd.
F1 tried this whole quiet thing… It didn’t work out too well for them. It broke the appearance of modern day rocket ships on wheels. Instead, they sound more like sewing machines on wheels.
With all that said, I was at the above mentioned 140 decibel Bristol race in 2005. From 1995 to 2007, I didn’t miss a single Bristol event. Two races per year for 13 straight years, 26 NASCAR Cup Series races. Those numbers don’t even include all the additional lower tier NASCAR division races I witnessed at that place.
In those days, the flimsy headphones weren’t all that great. The hearing loss rate within the racing community is strictly undeniable, that part isn’t up for debate. Now, every night, when my head hits the pillow, there’s a constant buzz in the room. In my mind, I have no doubt where that symptom stemmed.
Yet, I’ll go again and again! Until my ears fall off…
If you haven’t been to Bristol, I’m honestly not sure I believe you deserve a say on this topic. As a life long race fan, your ears are going to break. For years, I’ve known that hearing loss was just part of being a racing fan.
Perhaps that’s old fashioned thinking and something can truly be done to prevent it. After all, mufflers are something dirt tracks have implemented in most urban area’s, for years. Maybe it’s not a step backward, but a step forward. Maybe we’re all a bit blinded by our pure love for the sport. Perhaps… a slight NASCAR noise reduction would be a good thing for the sport as a whole.
Author: Shane Walters