Kanaan, Tilke, Ryan Blaney celebrating December 31 birthdays


December 31: last day of the 2013 calendar year and home to a couple birthdays of note.

First, a happy 39th to Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, who earned an early birthday present in October when he signed with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2014 IndyCar season. That became the No. 10 Target seat earlier this month, when CGR confirmed Ryan Briscoe as the team’s fourth driver to replace the retired Dario Franchitti.

Next up, we’ll wish a happy 59th to Hermann Tilke, the architect of most new Formula One circuits. Tilke’s tracks ignite opinion either way but they do have some dramatic points.

Lastly, happy 20th to NASCAR up-and-comer Ryan Blaney, who won his first Nationwide Series race earlier this year at Kentucky. A Penske Racing prodigy, Blaney should be in Cup within a couple years at the latest.

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.