What’s a Choose Drone? NASCAR’s New Way to Use Drones

BY Zacc Dukowitz
18 April 2023

NASCAR recently used a drone in a unique way for the first time ever—to indicate the “choose lane” for race car drivers.

The drone NASCAR is using is a DJI Inspire 2 that’s been configured to hold a box illuminated by bright orange LED lights.

But what the heck is a “choose drone”?

You won’t find a definition online because it’s a brand new term created for a brand new use of drones. Keep reading to learn how NASCAR is using drones as a new solution for an old problem.

How the Choose Lane Works

In NASCAR racing, the “choose rule” lets drivers of a higher rank choose their own lanes when restarting.

The key thing to know about when drivers may choose a lane is that it happens while they’re already racing—not at the start of the race, as you might imagine. Only after completing one lap of the course are drivers allowed to choose their lane of choice. But they have to know where on the track they can do this.

On paved courses, the place where drivers can choose their lane is indicated by a symbol on the track itself, with a large, painted choose V.

Behavior around the choose symbol is scrutinized by officials—if drivers cross over the square centered in the V, which is typically painted yellow or orange, they get penalized.

Credit: NASCAR

Dirt tracks don’t allow you to paint symbols on them, because they’ll get rubbed out too fast to be useful.

For this reason, officials sometimes use a cone to indicate the choose lane in dirt tracks and other types of tracks. Sometimes, they don’t offer a choose lane at all, given the lack of ideal solutions.


As you might imagine, the cone solution—or the “choose cone”—is not a great option.

Using it either requires a person to walk the cone out and place it on the track, then retrieve it after everyone has gone by, or to attach a cord to the cone and pull it back in.

Enter the Choose Drone

The idea to use a drone to indicate the place where drivers could choose their lane came from Tim Bermann, Senior Director of Competition Operations at NASCAR.

After brainstorming with colleagues on what they could use that was visible to the drivers, spotters, and fans, and also during the day and at night, they decided to test a drone.

It’ll be more visible than what you see on the track. You can never see it on the track, so that’s much better. [We] might want to do it everywhere.

– Two-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano

NASCAR officials have made it clear that despite the novelty of the approach, they’ll still be on the lookout for any questionable behavior.

Just as drivers can get penalized for driving over the square in the choose V, drivers who change lanes directly under the drone could also be subject to penalties.

So how do drivers feel about the choose drone? Pretty optimistic, it seems.

I think it’s neat. It’s a unique way of doing it, right? You look at other Saturday night short-track stuff on dirt and they do the cone and they pull the cone across afterwards and we’ve one-upped it. I think it’s cool.

– Two-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano

For now, the choose drone is only being used at the Bristol Motor Speedway, which is a dirt track. The first races it will be used in are the Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Cup Series.

NASCAR officials say they have no plans to implement the choose drone elsewhere, but they welcome feedback regarding the process.

NASCAR’s Other Use of Drones

The choose drone may be new, but NASCAR isn’t new to using drones.

Since 2021, NASCAR has been using heavy-lift drones and custom FPV racing drones to get incredible aerial shots of the action during its races.

NASCAR uses FPV racing drones to capture footage alongside the cars as they race, going up to 85 or even 90 mph to get action shots, and the big rigs are used for sweeping cinematic shots of the entire course.

The shots shared above were all captured by Beverly Hills Aerials through a partnership with Fox Sports.

Check out this article to see more of their coverage of NASCAR races.

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