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Overcoming noise at NASCAR races

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
11:00
AM ET
Think of how your coffee maker sounds at the end of the brewing cycle, when the last of the water is suctioned into the filter. Then turn it up, Spinal Tap-style, past 11. That’s NASCAR. And that’s why, with 850-horsepower engines creating 140 decibels at an idle, the first thing you receive at a race, including the one at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, is a pair of earplugs.

[+] EnlargeJeff Gordon
Todd Warshaw/NASCAR/Getty ImagesBecause NASCAR races are so noisy, race teams use hand signals to communicate during pit stops.
Jeff Gordon says “loud engines and roaring fans” are the first things that come to mind when people talk about NASCAR, but cutting through the noise can be the difference between a clean, fast pit stop and a botched one. It’s so loud trackside that most pit crews use hand signals, like college basketball point guards, to let each other know what needs to be done. Because with many four-hour races decided by less than a car length, every quarter-second counts.

Inside the vehicle, drivers like Denny Hamlin listen to the high-pitched whirr of the compressed-air powered wrench on the fifth and last lug nut of the front driver’s side wheel as the cue to get moving. It’s a similar sound to your dentist’s drill -- only loud enough to jolt an artilleryman.

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