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IndyCar shakes up tradition with built-in LEDs that show race position

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"The greatest spectacle in racing" is getting a futuristic face lift this year. In addition to a brand new aero package, the high-speed machines of IndyCar will feature LED panels that display each driver's positioning at this year's Indy 500.

Even though many tracks feature multiple scoring towers and scoreboards, fans aren't guaranteed to have a clear view of them, and at street or road courses there's no view of the entire course. That can make it difficult to make out which driver is where in the standings, especially when the race leaders are running in lapped traffic.

"The greatest spectacle in racing" will have a new look

The new panels will mitigate that problem, even if the somewhat garish look is sure to send shivers down the spines of traditionalist fans. Every time you spot a car, you'll know exactly where they're running. If you're already in viewing range of a scoreboard, the LED panels will at least keep the focus a bit more on the action. And while television broadcasts are full of graphics that show this kind of information, the new panels could appeal to more casual fans might not be as familiar with the cars and their liveries.

The displays appear on both sides of the car, just behind the driver's head on the curved airbox. They measure 8 inches wide by 7 inches tall, and are only 3 millimeters thick. IndyCar tested them on a car for the first time in March, but expanded the testing to two this week at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

Derrick Walker, IndyCar's president of competition, told Racer Magazine that the new systems could even be introduced series-wide as early as this weekend's road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "If we can get everything in place for the Grand Prix, we'll use them," he said. "The Indy 500 is the main plan, and we're on schedule."

For now, the LEDs will blink the drivers' position in red for the majority of the race, but can change to green when a driver triggers the cars' push-to-pass feature. IndyCar says that they're considering adding other colors in the future.