Pucks…Not Just For Hockey Anymore!

petty puck-1By David G. Firestone

I will occasionally talk about quirks of racing design, and there are many. But this is one I hadn’t really considered too much, until I found this on eBay. It is referred to as a “camera puck.” “What on earth is a camera puck?” you ask, well let’s discuss in-car cameras for that answer.

First, a little history. In-car cameras in auto racing date back to 1979, where in both Australia, in the 1979 Hardie-Ferodo 1000, and in the United States at the 1979 Daytona 500. These early cameras were heavy, weighing in at over 30 pounds each. As time went on the cameras got smaller, and more of them could be placed in race cars. This technology eventually moved to IndyCar, Formula 1, and almost all other forms of motorsports.

In the 1990’s, the “roofcam” became the most popular form of in-car camera in NASCAR, but there was a problem. The camera was housed in a pod on the roof, which completely changed the aerodynamics of the car. Furthermore, the drilling of holes into the roof was met with disdain from teams, who spend a lot of time setting up cars. For a short time, the roofcam was banned because of these issues. This didn’t set well with the fans, who love the roofcam, and they demanded that it be brought back. NASCAR agreed to do so, but had to do something, as Vince McMahon would say “in the interest of fairness.” Did I really just quote Vince McMahon…oh well…

The issues of roofcams affecting performance was settled with the introduction of the camera puck. The puck is the size of the roofcam housing, and is the same weight. For those teams who are selected to have a roofcam, the puck is removed, and the camera is installed. This is done so that the cars are as equal as possible, and no accusations can be levied against NASCAR for favoritism. Like everything else, the dimensions, and weight are closely monitored, and cheating is taken very seriously.

The current in-car configuration used in NASCAR is referred to as “the three camera setup.” One camera is on the roof, one in what would be the passenger seat in a street car, and one camera is on the back bumper. Additional cameras are also used in the front bumper, wheel well, and above the pedals as needed. Cameras are sponsored, and the sponsor picks which car gets the in-cars. Low end sponsorships run from $30,000 to $50,000 per race.

I recently acquired a camera puck from Aric Almirola’s #43 US Air Force Ford Fusion. I’m not sure what year it was used, since 2013 and 2014 , all look almost identical to each other. petty puck-1This design would not have been used in 2015, but more on that later. It is roughly the circumference of a hockey puck, and is as tall as two hockey pucks stacked on top of each other. petty puck-2 petty puck-5 petty puck-4 petty puck-3It is the weight of the in-car camera, which is well over a pound, and I would estimate close to two pounds. It has two screws, with original nuts present as well. petty puck-6Richard Petty, the King of NASCAR has signed the puck on top.petty puck-1As I mentioned, this particular design would not have been used in 2015, due to a rule change. When the Gen 6 car debuted in 2013, roofcams weren’t initially used on 1.5 mile tracks, due to NASCAR worrying about aerodynamics. As the 2013 season progressed a design change was implemented, the round puck design was replaced with a teardrop design, as seen here. Since the US Air Force scheme was only used on 1.5 mile tracks in 2015, this design, used on short tracks, road courses, and super speedways, would not have been used. The only difference between the two is that the teardrop design doesn’t allow for 360 degree views.

Quirks of racing design exist in many different aspects of racing, and next week, I’ll discuss one of the most important aspects of racing.