Indy 500 type racing- how did they keep with who's winning in the old days?

Pre-technology- I assume nowadays it is done with technology of some kind. But in the early days, how did they keep with what place everybody was in, with pit stops, faster drivers lapping other drivers, etc?

Um… somebody counted. You know, “one, two, three, seven laps for the number 8 car so far.” That’s just to keep track officially, but hell, it’s easy enough to keep your eye on the lead car the whole time. You can’t fuck it up if you just watch the race, I promise.

Before computers they had these little round things with moving hands that kept track of time down to the tenth of a second. They could figure out all kinds of neat statistics with those gizmos and a pencil for ciphering with.

Yes, but when the lead car goes in for gas? Was one official person needed per car? And there were 50 cars on the track, some several laps behind others? I don’t get it.

Timers or stopwatches you’re referring to, and are all well and good if no one goes in for a pit stop.

Imagine a big sheet of graph paper with the names of the racers along one side and the laps around the top. Every time someone finishes a lap, you give him a checkmark in that box. Then you know who has finished how many laps, and within people who are on the same lap, the order they appear on the track is where they sit in the overall standings for the race.

That’s probably not how it was done, but if a completely trivial system like that could keep track of it, I don’t suppose it was terribly difficult.

I think the problem is perhaps that you’re thinking of it in terms of the cars relative to each other (that guy was three laps down, but he did two laps while the leader was in the pit, so now is he only one lap down?) which is a bit mind-boggling to calculate. But if you only think of it in terms of the cars relative to the race itself, it’s much easier.

Gee, hypocrite much? (in case you don’t get that, you just admonished someone for nitpicking a comment of yours)

Also, smiles much?

And walkie talkies pre-date the Indy 500 :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

There was and likely still is a huge floor of people who keep track of scoring the Indy 500.

And there have been arguments about who was ahead. I believe Parnelli Jones’s victory was a bit controversial because there was a dispute over the number of laps he had completed.

Sometimes I go to watch British stock car racing (a very different creature) at a track near me. Provided you’re watching from the start and keep attention, keeping track of the front half-dozen among a field of three dozen on short oval is no problem, without needing pen and paper. And that includes backmarkers getting lapped, etc.

Bob T - Besides Parnelli Jones, there was definitely another controversy going back to the very first Indy race in 1911 in which Ray Harroun was declared the winner.
However from that Wikipedia article:

So, maybe people did lose the count of laps completed.

Not having to do with “lap counting”, the Indy 500 has had other controversies the most notorious of which was in 1982. Mario Andretti was declared the winner but several months later, Bobby Unser was finally deemed the winner.

There are.

I was passing through Indianapolis last spring, the week before the race, and decided to check out the museum at the Speedway. It turned out to be Community Day; autograph sessions and lots of other events. I took a tour of the timing and scoring offices.

They take it very seriously. There’s some major network security going on, and you probably need a permissions slip signed by God to get in that room on race day. There are wires under the pavement that get a signal from a transceiver on each car. One wire is eight inches (I think) from the start/finish line because the transceiver is exactly eight inches from the nose of the car. It’s a hell of a nice system.

And, for when every piece of technology craps out on you, they still have people there doing it manually.

He didn’t explain the exact technique, but there are still smaller tracks around the country without embedded wires and computers. If someone wants to put in the legwork, just go there and ask.

I got to drive a lap around the track in my rental car, too.

How many lap counters were (are) there? One for each car?

The various tracks and sanctioning bodies do have their own spotters, but the spotters that are mentioned on telecasts generally belong to the individual teams. On the bigger tracks each team could have more than one. Even at the local level, a lot of race teams use spotters if the rules allow.

Regarding the scoring, our local track uses a technique called line scoring. I don’t know a lot about how it works other than each car number is written down each time the corresponding car crosses the start/finish line. After a wreck, the lineup is set from the last completed lap. It only takes 2-3 people to score a 25 car field.