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What is Going On with Scoring Pylons at NASCAR Tracks?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

In the last two weeks, NASCAR fans, teams, and drivers have been greeted with the absence of a motorsports staple. Scoring pylons were taken down at Talladega Superspeedway and Texas Motor Speedway, much to the chagrin of many in the industry. Why is this happening, and are they going extinct?

  • NASCAR explained their reasoning behind the removal of scoring pylons. They claimed that the pylons were getting old, and the same information the pylon gave was readily available on big screens around the race track.
  • Jeff Gluck and Jordan Bianchi discussed another reason why scoring pylons are going away from certain tracks. It’s a slightly different reason than what NASCAR has said publically.
  • Many fans and competitors disagree that scoring pylons are redundant and or inconsequential. Many rely on the pylons to get information at the race track, and this changes their at-track experience.

Why Are They Going Away?

Jeff Gluck and Jordan Bianchi discussed scoring pylons on a recent episode of The Teardown. In it, Gluck revealed that Indianapolis Motor Speedway President, Doug Boles, disclosed a reason why some old-school scoring pylons are going away. This came when Indianapolis Motor Speedway turned off a scoring ribbon on top of the pagoda a few years ago.

Doug Bulls had said that the company that made the parts for [the scoring pylon], it’s obsolete. They no longer exist at all. I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that’s what happened with the Texas one and I’m told that’s what happened with the Talladega one…It’s not like a car where you go on Craigslist, and you’re like ‘all right well I need this part for this 1975 car’ or whatever. You can’t replace this stuff, so you have to take it down.

Jeff Gluck

The company that built scoring pylons no longer exists, and, on top of that, building a scoring pylon is incredibly expensive. Jeff Gluck later said a scoring pylon costs $5 Million to construct. This adds some context to NASCAR’s explanation, claiming the pylons were getting old.

NASCAR also claimed that the same information is readily available through other avenues like big screens around the race track. Is NASCAR right?

Is There Still a Purpose for Scoring Pylons?

In the days before big screens became the norm at sporting venues around the world, scoring pylons were very important to everyone at the race track. From teams to fans to media members to broadcasters, these pylons were the only way they could see who was where on the race track. This was especially true at big race tracks like Indianapolis, Pocono, Daytona, and Talladega, where fans could not see the entire race track.

Times have changed, and each race track is outfitted with big screens viewable from the grandstands. Not only can fans see a live feed of the race, but, the running order is displayed via an old-school scrolling bug on top of the screen.

Yes, the same information is available, but, only a few spots are showing at a time. Scoring pylons often show more cars. The one at Kansas, for example, shows the top 20 cars with two slots that scroll through the rest of the field.

Scoring pylons generally allow fans to see where their drivers are running at a quick glance instead of waiting for a name to scroll across a screen, which can take a few minutes. While, yes, the same information is available through other means, the scoring pylon still serves a purpose.

Fans in the infield also may not have access to big screens around the race track, so, they primarily get their information via the scoring pylon.

NASCAR also encouraged fans and drivers to look at the information on their phones via the NASCAR app. While a great concept, at-track WiFi for fans has been heavily criticized, so, there needs to be improvement in that area for that to be a viable option.

Are They Going Extinct?

While the last two races have showcased that at least two tracks do not see the value in scoring pylons, they are not going extinct. Gluck said as much later in “The Teardown”.

I don’t get the sense [NASCAR is] like. ‘all right let’s have everybody look at their phones. Let’s take down the pylons’. I’m told that’s not the case. 

Jeff Gluck

The good news for fans is, that if NASCAR doesn’t want to get rid of pylons, there are other solutions available if an old-school scoring pylon cannot be refurbished. Indianapolis Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway swapped out the old-school pylon with vertical ribbon screens that create an all-digital scoring pylon.

However, Talladega and Texas did not make that investment, and that $5 million price tag may be a reason. Either way, scoring pylons are a hot topic of discussion right now, and fans are hoping NASCAR doesn’t get rid of them altogether.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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