Behind The Scenes

ESPN’s Dave Burns reports from NASCAR pits with help from his trusty iPad

NASCAR always has been a sport that has led to innovation and in that spirit, ESPN NASCAR pit reporter Dave Burns has developed an innovative way to use an iPad.

In the noise, heat and craziness of pit road during a NASCAR race, Burns is the guy in an ESPN firesuit with a microphone in one hand and his iPad in the other.

“Does it make me a better reporter? I would say no, but that’s not its purpose,” said Burns, who joined ESPN in 2007.

“Its purpose is to make me more efficient with the volumes of information that I have to have, and also with the notetaking that happens during the course of a race,” he said. “It keeps me more organized, and it has paid big dividends.”

Burns started customizing his iPad prior to the start of the 2011 NASCAR season. That included finding suitable apps for notetaking and reading NASCAR’s statistics and making sure he’d be able to read the screen while outside during full daylight.

In prior years, Burns had printed out his own notes on drivers, race teams, racetracks, etc. and had bound them into neat booklets for each race. He also had charts that he used for keeping track of the 10-12 cars he covers during a race. All of that now goes directly into the iPad.

“In February, 2011, at Daytona, I very nervously debuted the iPad on pit road,” he said. “It hadn’t been out in the weather, I didn’t want to drop it and I didn’t know if I’d be able to do my job, but I went without paper and pen for the first time to see if I could actually make it work.”

It did work, but he quickly discovered that the device shut off when it got too hot, so he found a cover that breathed better. And while the iPad has never run out of power even during a long race, he keeps it on charge as much as possible.

Now that he’s making the iPad work for him, Burns enjoys it when someone at a racetrack asks him about it.

“As I go around to the teams and interview the crew chiefs, all the engineers are sitting there and ask ‘Hey, what are you doing with that?’” he said. “And they’re always interested in how someone is doing their job better with the aid of a gizmo they all know and love.”

Find out more about how Burns uses this “new” tool of his trade in the video above.

Video produced by Andy Hall.

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