2020 Daytona 500

New custom racing drone will capture Daytona 500 action while traveling 80 mph

Fox Sports will employ new drone technology as they work to innovate the way NASCAR coverage is shown to viewers.

Photo courtesy of Fox Sports

NASCAR is back for 2020, with the Daytona 500 kicking off the newly title sponsor-less Cup Series tomorrow in Daytona. For Fox Sports, NASCAR's television broadcast partner for the first half of the premier Cup season, Daytona is a field laboratory for trying out new technology for motorsport storytelling.

For the past few years, there has been a particular focus on drone technology. First it was a tethered drone, flying along the backstretch but connected to the ground. Then, last year, Fox flew an untethered drone for the first time. This was a major accomplishment, requiring coordination and permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the track, law enforcement at all levels, as well as the Daytona Airport which is literally adjacent to the track.

Fox Sports green screen Lindsay Czarniak Fox Sports reporter Lindsay Czarniak stands in front of new green screen technology employed during the 2019 NASCAR season.Photo by Jordan Golson

It was, according to Fox executives, the first time an untethered drone was flown legally in a "temporary flight restriction zone".

Fox Sports has long been a pioneer in on-air tech, launching the yellow First Down line in football more than 25 years ago — which is now standard across football — as well as other innovations that were a little less successful, like the FoxTrax glowing puck in hockey.

Last year, Fox launched a new green-screen "virtual studio" where an entire broadcast studio was generated with augmented reality. That required new tech to insert artificial backgrounds on the green screens of the set between the camera shot and the control room, as well as new makeup techniques to offset the green on presenters faces.

Though the untethered drone last year was an accomplishment, it didn't give the Fox Sports production team video shots it didn't have before. It floated over the grass infield of the backstretch at Daytona — well away from fans and the cars, which it wasn't allowed to fly over. It worked as a test, which was great. But it wasn't footage that couldn't have been achieved in a more traditional manner.

"We had this thing out there and it worked and it was good quality," said Michael Davies, senior vice president of Field & Tech Operations, Fox Sports. "But, we could have gotten that from a jib. So we scratched our heads and said is it really worth it?"

This year, they have an 80-foot crane between turns one and two that was partially inspired by the shots the drone was able to get last year. "You'd be hard-pressed to tell that it's not a drone," said Davies.

But to make things a little more exciting, Fox has partnered with Beverly Hills Aerials, a drone firm that specializes in television and movie drone shots. Below is some footage from their test shoot during a NASCAR practice session at Daytona on Friday.

They built a custom racing drone that can go as fast as 80 mph. It's little more than some propellers, a battery good for six or seven minutes of flying time, a flight camera for the pilot, and a GoPro Hero 4 shooting at 720p and 60fps. It is surprising that the team would be using such an old camera (GoPro is selling the Hero 8 these days), but reliability is most important and since it works for them, they keep using it. Also on board is a transmitter that sends the GoPro footage straight to the control room and that's about it.

"It's a racing drone. And with racing drones, your platform is your drone. There's no gimbal and the camera is totally fixed," said Davies in an interview this week. "The movement of the camera comes from the movement of the drone. There's no two-man operation. We needed something that was faster and more agile."

The goal, says Fox, is to help put the viewer in places they've never been before. They've pioneered things like the Gopher cam, a camera literally inside the hole on a golf course, as well as the lipstick cam in baseball to show interesting views of the pitcher or batter.

"We want to cover the game from the inside out, versus the outside in," explains Davies. "Typical coverage is cameras placed around the field of play or track or whatever. What makes it interesting is a little bit more access in terms of putting cameras in places people haven't seen."

Thanks to the rise in the popularity of video games, which can put a virtual camera wherever you want, viewers aren't satisfied with static camera views. Even in-car cameras are considered commonplace these days, so Fox is putting cameras right on the helmet of the driver, making it even more personal.

"We can push in terms of in-car technology to give people a more intimate view of the race," explains Davies. "Fundamentally, that makes my job and what I'm able to do at Fox kind of interesting." Though the camera might be used during the race, he's also excited for other things that the speed of the drone, as well as the unique camera-angle, makes possible.

"After what we see Saturday and Sunday, we'll come up with other regimens of things we'll be able to do," says Davies. "It's literally a flying camera, topping out at 80 mph." That's not enough to chase a 200 mph stock car down the back stretch, but it's enough to be one of the fastest cameras that Fox has ever deployed.

"It's interesting to keep finding different things to do," he said. "I think from this one, there's gonna be no mistaking it. This is what I'm excited about. There's no other way to get these shots."

Below is the video feed from Fox Sports featuring the crash at the end of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Nascar Racing Experience 300 on Saturday afternoon.

The ability for the drone to fly during the Daytona 500 is unique, not just because of the technology, but because of the presence of President Donald Trump who will serve as grand marshal. Ahead of the race, the FAA and the Secret Service are restricting all flights within 30 miles of Daytona International Speedway unless they are approved law enforcement aircraft or military aircraft directly supporting the U.S. Secret Service or the Office of the President.

Looking up at the race will also allow attendees to see a flyover from the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds — their 10th in a row and their 11th overall —and the Goodyear Blimp.

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This McLaren Senna GTR LM wears the classic Harrods livery.

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automobiles

The 1995 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was a milestone in McLaren history. That year, five McLaren F1 GTRs finished in the top 15, placing 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 13th. Five customer-commissioned McLaren Senna GTR models celebrate that iconic race.

The five cars wear a bespoke, hand-painted livery that either replicates or pays tribute to the design of each of the 1995 cars.

Each of the models is a unique creation raking more than 800 hours of craftsmanship by McLaren Special Operations to complete. Two of the five models are headed to the U.S. - one in Gulf livery and the other an art car that required several thousand hours of work to complete its unique airbrush paintwork.

McLaren Senna GTR Le Mans 1995 Tribute Each of the models pays tribute to vehicles raced in the 1995 24 Horus of Le Mans.Photo courtesy of McLaren Automobiles

The McLaren Senna GTR is the fastest-lapping car McLaren has ever made outside of Formula 1. These models include an upgraded twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter engine that puts out 833 brake horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque.

Scroll down to see models and read descriptions of each, provided by McLaren.

McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/1

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automobiles

An homage to McLaren F1/01R, often referenced as 'The Ueno Clinic car' and the outright winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995

The car bearing race number 59 was driven in 1995 by two-time Le Mans winner Yannick Dalmas, Japanese veteran Masanori Sekiya and former Formula One driver, JJ Lehto.

The race was one of the wettest in Le Mans' history, which played into the hands of the bulletproof reliability of the McLaren F1 and also the skills of the drivers – especially Lehto, who was so quick in the wet his team tried to persuade him to slow down.

The charcoal grey livery branded with the name of Japanese sponsor Ueno Clinic was not widely recognised at the time but has since passed into legend. The MSO team has faithfully recreated it on the McLaren Senna GTR LM, precisely matching the color by mixing a new tone dubbed 'Ueno Grey' – a fitting tribute to achievements of the car, and of course its three drivers.

This car has been very authentically reproduced from the original race-winning F1 GTR, echoing every last detail right down to recreating car 59's unique driving lamps, which have been specially commissioned by the GTR LM's owner*.

The OZ Racing wheels are finished in matching grey, completing the menacing look that still sends shivers down the spine of race fans 25 years after the chequered flag fell.

McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/6

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automobiles

An homage to McLaren F1/06R, often referenced as 'The Harrods car'

Car number 51, driven by an all-British line up of Andy Wallace, Derek Bell and Justin Bell, might well have won had it not suffered a transmission glitch two hours from the flag that saw Wallace have to nurse the car home in third place.

The car's famous yellow livery with bold green stripe bore the name of iconic London department store, Harrods – and that prestigious relationship has been reunited for the GTR LM. While the colors have been worn again by a McLaren since the 1995 race – a McLaren P1™ GTR was finished in the livery in 2015 – this is the first time that the famous Harrods logo has been seen on a McLaren for 25 years.

The MSO paint team used a vivid color called Solar Yellow for the body of the car, and that distinctive wide stripe is applied in Heritage Green, shadowed by a matching green pinstripe and green detailing within the front aero diffuser.

McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/2

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automobiles

An homage to McLaren F1/02R, often referenced as 'The Gulf car'

Brazilian Maurizio Sandro Sala joined Brits Mark Blundell and Ray Bellm behind the wheel of the McLaren F1 GTR for 291 rain-lashed laps of La Sarthe in 1995, eventually finishing in fourth place.

Car number 24 had arguably the most iconic livery of any of the cars. The Gulf Racing blue, perfectly reimagined here by MSO as Gulf 95 Blue, fits the McLaren Senna GTR LM seamlessly. Its 'Gulf 95 Orange' pinstripe traces the rear diffuser and the imposing shape of the rear wing's LMP1-style endplates, tracks along the lower sill and unites at the front with vivid orange blades on the front splitter.

The OZ Racing wheels conform to the theme, being finished in equally vivid orange, while the lower sills and roof stripe are painted in Gulf 95 Silver. The actual Gulf Oil logo appears on the bonnet and doors, and a finishing touch is provided by Ayrton Senna's signature boldly recreated on the rear quarter of the bodywork.

McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/7

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automobiles

An homage to McLaren F1/07R, often referenced as 'The Jacadi car'

Car number 50 was run by French-based customer team Giroix Racing. Two French drivers – Fabien Giroix and Olivier Grouillard – joined Swiss pilot Jean-Denis Deletraz to bring the car home in fifth place, just a lap down on the Gulf car.

The unmistakeable royal blue livery was proudly French-themed and has been preserved by the McLaren Senna GTR LM's new owner by the specification of a startlingly bright color called Le Mans Blue for the body of the car. It looks particularly stunning on the GTR LM's massive rear diffuser.

That blue is complemented by a blue metallic called 'Polaris', and further offset by the use of authentic Elf logos belonging to the French oil company which sponsored the 1995 race car. The car is the only one of the five to wear the French Tricolour flag.

McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/5

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automobiles

An homage to McLaren F1/05R, often referenced as 'The Cesar car'

Displaying the most intricate livery design of all the McLaren F1 GTRs that raced in 1995, car number 42 finished 13th position, completing the McLaren roll of honour of finishers.

Run by French team Société BBA, the striking car was driven by an all-French line-up of Jean-Luc Maury-Laribiere, Marc Sourd and Hervé Poulin. Maury-Laribiere and Poulin were pioneers of 'art cars' and asked renowned artist Cesar Baldaccini to envisage a livery for the F1 GTR they would be racing at Le Mans.

An experienced endurance racer, Poulin's fine collection of racing trophies became the inspiration for Cesar's work on the McLaren.

McLaren Senna GTR LM 825/5 is a modern reinterpretation of the livery, drawing in new elements, such as pole position lap times; contemporary race trophies and Le Mans branding cues.

An immensely complex piece of work produced using many techniques – including extensive airbrushing – this was the car that took longest to paint, to the point that MSO stopped recording the time taken. As an estimate, several thousand hours of work were needed to finish the project to the exemplary standard that is now so evident.

All five McLaren Senna GTR LMs have now been completed and will be delivered to owners in the United States, Europe and the UK. As with all bespoke commissions created by McLaren Special Operations, their value remains undisclosed unless the owners choose to share this detail.

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The 2020 Ram 1500 Built to Serve model features aeronautical accents and pays tribute to the Air Force.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The third installment of the 2020 Ram 1500 Built to Serve models will go into production next month at the company's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan. Each of the Built to Serve variants of the truck pays tribute to a brach of the U.S. armed forces.

Ram's newest edition is crafted with an aeronautical theme in honor of the U.S. Air Force. It is available with either an Anvil or Billet Silver exterior color and with a black interior with Light Diesel Gray accent stitching.

2020 Ram 1500 Built to Serve: Air Force

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Ram continues to honor all of those who serve or have served in the United States armed forces with distinction through our latest 'Built to Serve' offering," said Mike Koval Jr., Head of Ram Brand, FCA – North America. "The 'Built to Serve' adage is something Ram truck owners, whether civilian or military, are very familiar with as it's something we strive to build into every truck and van we produce."

The Ram Built to Serve Edition trucks are built on the Ram 1500 Big Horn trim level.

Each model features a U.S. flag and Bulit to Serve decal on each of the rear quarter panels, 20-inch aluminum wheels with unique Technical Gray finish, body-colored wheel flares, all-black grille and surround, black bumpers, black-bezel premium lighting, black badges, black wheel-to-wheel side steps, and dual four-inch black exhaust tips.

There are Built to Serve Velcro panels on each front seat and on the rear shoulder panel where owners can apply their own patches to personalize their truck. Front seat-back panels are covered with PALS/MOLLE webbing that can be used to attach additional equipment or pouches.

Each model also comes loaded with Ram's 4x4 Off-Road Group content, including:

  • All-terrain tires
  • Electronic-locking rear axle
  • Hill-descent control
  • Front suspension skid plate
  • Steering gear skid plate
  • Fuel tank skid plate
  • Transfer case skid plate
  • Tow hooks
  • Heavy-duty off-road-calibrated front and rear shock absorbers

By appealing to past and present military members with the marketing of this truck, Ram is tapping into a significant population. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs calculates that approximately seven percent of the U.S. population is an active or reserve member, or veteran of the armed services.

Ram is selling the special edition as a $2,795 option.

The trucks wlll be available at dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2020.

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