In a tiny lab in Concord, NASCAR drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick can be found undergoing a strange procedure -- having molds made of their ears.
Now, while that might sound a bit bizarre, it makes perfect sense when you realize the lab is located inside the racing communications company, Racing Electronics, which provides radio systems to NASCAR fans, as well as the drivers.
NASCAR drivers can often be found walking into the Concord office to have ear molds made in order to get the communications gear they need that will fit them perfectly.
Racing Electronics provides the radio equipment, as well as the "harness" or wiring system that runs through a NASCAR ride, connecting a driver to his team for vital communication while racing.
It's hard to miss the company's work if you're a racing fan. Just the other day a front page photo taken from Daytona showed a crew member wearing Racing Electronics gear.
In addition, Racing Electronics provides gear for NASCAR fans to listen in on their favorite teams during a race.
Bruce Silver, the founder of Racing Electronics, is now the president and CEO of the privately held company. He knows what it's like to be a race fan getting to hear the chatter between a driver and his team.
The germ of the idea that would become Racing Electronics first formed in 1986. Silver was a sales manager for a car dealership in New Jersey. One of his customers owned some dirt-track race teams and had a Busch Grand National (now Nationwide) team.
At a race in Syracuse, N.Y. in October 1986, Silver sat in the grandstand with a team radio from his friend's crew.
"And I just held onto it for most of the race," Silver said. "When things got going I listened in and I thought it was amazing that people could listen in and listen to the teams communicate."
Silver said he still remembers that race and hearing the driver, Jimmy Horton, as he was leading the race, chasing after a $100,000 win.
"He said, 'I'm coming in. Get me out fast and I will win the race,'" Silver said. "And the emotion that was there, the emotion of what I heard, sent a chill up my spine."
In fact, Horton did win the race, Silver said.
"And I felt a part of it by listening to it and being able to hear that," he said.
It would be a few years before Silver took that experience and ran with it to form Racing Electronics. But around 1987 he started fooling around with scanners and headsets and tracking down the radio frequencies of various teams.
By October 1988, he was at another race in New Jersey and saw other people listening to their own scanners. But they were frustrated they couldn't find frequencies of the teams or decent headsets.
"On the way home from the race the concept of Racing Electronics developed," Silver said.
Of course he never expected it to become a full-time career. He just thought it would be a nice side project to earn a little extra money. He placed a tiny advertisement in Area Auto Racing News in November 1988 and sold his first order the week the ad came out. He didn't get a lot of response at first. Until people started placing orders to have the Racing Electronics headsets in time to enjoy the races in Daytona.
"And that was the start of it," he said.
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