Michigan Int’l Speedway Gets Audio Makeover

When Michigan International Speedway held its first race in October 1968, its 12,000-seat grandstand made it one of the top new racetracks in the U.S. For more than four decades, this two-mile oval has hosted countless historic races, its Victory Circle graced by such famous names as Richard Petty, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, and Dale Earnhardt.

MIS now seats more than 119,500 and is still one of the nation’s premier racing venues, thanks to an ongoing program of improvements and upgrades over the years. Most recently, the track’s original sound system was completely revamped, its 1960s-vintage horns replaced with more than 200 Community R-Series weather-resistant loudspeakers.

The project was overseen by consultant Jack McCallum of Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams (WJHW), with installation performed by Lansing-based I.Comm Corporation. The project involved replacing nearly all of the Speedway’s existing loudspeakers, except for a small handful. I.Comm’s Joe Osypczuk explains:

“We had installed eight of the Community R2-474 loudspeakers at MIS back in 2000,” he says, “and when we went in this year to begin this project, those R2s were still in great shape, despite having been out there 365 days a year through ten Michigan winters. Those were the only speakers that stayed.”

The grandstand seating is covered by 77 Community R2-94Z loudspeakers and 59 R.5 loudspeakers in 90×40 and 90×90 degree coverage patterns. Turns three and four received another 40 R.5HPT systems, while the fan walk areas were provided 10 R2-94Z loudspeakers. Out at the entrance gates, 16 R.25-94TZ loudspeakers welcome the fans. The grandstand system is powered by more than 195,000 watts of Crown amplification, with BSS London DSP handling the system processing.

As Osypczuk explains, the challenges of a severely compressed schedule were further exacerbated by a less-than-cooperative Mother Nature. “The contract was finalized in January, and we had until the end of May to complete the job. We had to install all of the new grandstand loudspeakers along with 91,000 feet of new cable and the associated conduit that was required, all during a severe winter and one of the wettest springs on record. Fortunately, after several weeks of delay, the weather cooperated for long enough for us to get it done.”

In addition to the new grandstand loudspeakers, the track’s Infield Perimeter has been upgraded with a total of 57 Community R.5HPT weather-resistant loudspeakers, each mounted atop 20-foot steel poles and utilizing 14,000 feet of new direct burial cable.

“Years ago, most racetracks mounted the loudspeakers on the wheel fence,” says Osypczuk. “But there’s been a growing trend toward moving them away from the fence, both for safety considerations and to improve sightlines.”

“We’ve used the R-Series loudspeakers on other projects, and we’ve always been happy with their performance,” Osypczuk concludes. “They’re powerful and provide great coverage and intelligibility, and they’re also very musical. But the other reason we keep going back to Community is their dependable consistency – we always know they’re going to work, right out of the box.”