Communication with a driver is crucial to a successful racing team. The radio acts as a lifeline between driver and crew chief. But that lifeline only works if the radio is working. Dead batteries, damaged radio antennas, missing cords can cause havoc to radio communication. The key is to take care of the equipment.

Using radio communication between the driver, crew chief and spotters is a major benefit to any racing team. It doesn’t matter if you are racing in the World Touring Car Championships at Monza or running in Spec Miata at Road America, communication can lead to success. But communication also can mean excess — excess things to bring to the track, like radios, batteries, antennas, chargers, cords and headsets. All that excess electrical gear often becomes a tangled ball of wires.

Radio gear needs maintenance and care. Batteries have to be charged — before the race starts. As if there weren’t enough things to do before a race weekend, adding radio gear to the list of things to be prepped and packed adds more responsibility and time. Often with some teams, radio gear gets overlooked, and as a result, communication is lost because the gear wasn’t properly cared for.

Radio equipment is cumbersome and delicate. Radios don’t like to bounce around underneath the car in the race trailer for 400 miles. And radios don’t function well if they get wet. That brings me to radio rule No.1 from Shawn Sampson of Sampson Racing Communications: “Don’t take handheld radios into the Port-a-potty!” A very important rule to live by.

Another important rule with radio gear is to stay organized. To ensure my radios don’t fall victim to a missing cord, or get backed over in the race trailer, I constructed a simple storage unit out of a medium sized plastic toolbox. I mounted the Vertex radio chargers to the bottom of the box and mounted a plug bank to the inside of the box so they would have power.

A simple fix to organizing your communication gear is an all-in-one package. This inexpensive plastic Craftsman tool box is big enough to hold radios, chargers, a power strip, extra batteries and headsets. Plus it is durable enough to bounce around in the race trailer and keep all of your expensive and delicate radio gear safe.
A simple fix to organizing your communication gear is an all-in-one package. This inexpensive plastic Craftsman tool box is big enough to hold radios, chargers, a power strip, extra batteries and headsets. Plus it is durable enough to bounce around in the race trailer and keep all of your expensive and delicate radio gear safe.
With each charger mounted to the bottom of the toolbox, radios don’t flop around. In the center of the box is an AMB transponder charger, with room for headsets on the left side. Smaller boxes attached to the interior sides of the radio box can store antennas, extra batteries and different wires and connectors.
With each charger mounted to the bottom of the toolbox, radios don’t flop around. In the center of the box is an AMB transponder charger, with room for headsets on the left side. Smaller boxes attached to the interior sides of the radio box can store antennas, extra batteries and different wires and connectors.

All my team’s radio equipment fits in one rugged, easy-to-carry case, which doubles as a charging station. This works great for two reasons. Everything is protected and everything is easy to find. When we arrive at the track, we plug the box into a power source and everything inside begins to charge. When the race starts, the crew chief and spotter grab the charged-and-ready radios and begin talking to the driver. There is no last-minute panic or yelling in the pits, “Where is the headset?” or, “Are any batteries charged?” Instead, when the flag drops all I hear is a crystal-clear, “GREEN, GREEN, GREEN!”

A power strip was attached to the rear of the box so that the radio box acts as a storage unit and a charging station. All of the radio chargers are wired directly to the power strip. Once the strip is plugged in, everything inside the box, radios and the transponder begin to charge.
A power strip was attached to the rear of the box so that the radio box acts as a storage unit and a charging station. All of the radio chargers are wired directly to the power strip. Once the strip is plugged in, everything inside the box, radios and the transponder begin to charge.
A small notch was cut in the box so the cord can get outside to be plugged into a power source, yet still allow the lid to close.
A small notch was cut in the box so the cord can get outside to be plugged into a power source, yet still allow the lid to close.
With a small extension cord attached to the power strip, this portable radio charging station can be set up in seconds to charge all of your radio gear. For storage of the cord, a fence latch catch was bolted to the back of the box for somewhere to wrap the excess cord when it isn’t being used.
With a small extension cord attached to the power strip, this portable radio charging station can be set up in seconds to charge all of your radio gear. For storage of the cord, a fence latch catch was bolted to the back of the box for somewhere to wrap the excess cord when it isn’t being used.

Total costs for the box, the power strip, some smaller interior storage boxes for organizing extra batteries and antennas was less than $75. It’s a worthwhile investment to protect expensive racing communication equipment. For all radios and headsets inside the box go to www.sampsonracing.com for pricing.

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Image courtesy of Rob Krider