NASCAR recently proposed turning down the volume on the cars to let people talk to each other, but there are better ways to do this without killing off part of the experience. I’m talking about the magical invention known as a headset, and NASCAR should rent them out to chatty fans instead of messing with the noise levels.
Because it is loud, and the incredible feeling—not just hearing, but feeling at that volume—of 40 cars roaring at full speed in front of you is part of the whole raceday experience, it’s a good idea to bring some form of hearing protection. Foam earplugs are the quick ‘n’ dirty way of saving your eardrums, but you can also bring over-the-ear earmuffs that can be way more comfortable if you hate shoving stuff in your ears. I’m certain that at least one or two of your fans have been to a gun range before, and therefore own a pair or two.
Fortunately, they make earmuffs with microphones and speakers built in so you can talk: headsets.
Rally folks use headsets to chat in the car on transit stages where the helmets with built-in mics and earphones are off. We had a set in a the loud, stripped-out Porsche 944 rally car we borrowed for the LeMons Rally, and they just worked. Instead of yelling over Porsche sounds, I could talk at a normal level. We even figured out how to feed our phones in to listen to podcasts and music.
Look at what’s riding on the heads of your own crew chiefs, NASCAR. They’ve had this trick figured out for years to be able to communicate with their drivers. The series could rent out some headsets to talky fans who for some reason want to communicate by speech and even make an extra buck doing so. Then they wouldn’t have to screw around with making cars quieter, and it’d be an extra reminder for fans to protect their hearing.
I’d recommend sticking to the plug-in kind so as not to interfere with assorted trackside radio traffic where possible, but maybe someone can come up with a small broadcast system in a non-interfering channel—perhaps even wifi-based—to accommodate groups of three or more.
Most of us will still probably be content to stuff a foam pod in each ear and text “holy crap Kyle got rekt 👊” at the appropriate time. But if you must let the people talk with spoken words for some reason, I have to say: the solution’s been right there in pit lane this whole time.
Addendum: A couple of you have pointed out that the Racing Electronics headsets that you can rent to listen to radio traffic and/or the MRN commentary of the race also allow you to speak with other fans.
There you have it! The answer to the noise issue is already available to fans.