FORT WORTH, TX – MARCH 19: The world’s largest HD LED video board nicknamed “Big Hoss TV” is officially unveiled with that evening’s episode of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” during a public event that attracted more than 8,000 fans on March 19, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The 21,633-foot HD video board built by Panasonic will claim a Guinness World Record prior to the Duck Commander 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on April 6, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Talk about a Texas-sized TV.
Texas Motor Speedway unveiled the world’s largest high-definition video board Wednesday night, with the flip of a switch on a huge remote control setting off fireworks before the screen lit up with highlights from past races and events at the track.
“There’s nothing like attending live sporting events. This means you don’t miss a thing,” track president Eddie Gossage said. “To me, it’s an ultimate fan amenity, and also to have the biggest one in the world.”
Gossage said the screen — dubbed “Big Hoss TV” — lives up to the adage that everything is bigger in Texas.
The screen is 218 feet wide and about 95 feet high. It is about 125 feet above ground level in the middle of the backstretch at the 1½-mile track. The screen measures 20,633 square feet, surpassing the size of a 200-foot by 85-foot board at Charlotte, another SMI track owned by Bruton Smith. Both video boards are a partnership with Panasonic.
Several thousand people set up lawn chairs on the infield on a chilly night for the free public debut, which included showing of the new episode of “Duck Dynsasty.”
The new title sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup spring race at Texas is Duck Commander, the brand of best-selling duck calls and Robertson family-owned company featured on the popular A&E show. The race is April 6.
‘We’ve been in business for 40 years, but obviously in the last two, we’ve really taken off,” said Willie Robertson, the CEO of the West Monroe, La.-based company who attended the screen debut. “All these opportunities are new.”
Asked if he had ever seen himself that big, Robertson replied, “Only in my mind, bro.”
His wife and business partner, Korie, said the couple recently saw themselves on a big screen for their part in “God’s Not Dead,” a recently released Christian movie.
“That was the biggest, this will definitely top that for sure,” she said.
IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves, whose only victory last season was at Texas, said such screens can definitely be a distraction. He recalled getting a glimpse of a smaller board near the fourth turn at Indianapolis during the closing laps on the way to winning his third Indianapolis 500 in 2009.
“All of a sudden, I saw my family holding hands,” he said. “I thought this is for real, I’ve got to focus.”
With the high speeds for Indy cars down the backstretch at Texas, Castroneves said it’s hard to take eyes off the track. But he’s hoping to see himself on the board celebrating another victory there — and flashing a 12-story high smile.
Kyle Busch, who won Sprint Cup and Nationwide races in Texas last year, said it’s hard to see what is actually on the screen while buckled into the cockpit of a sprint car, “unless you’re under yellow and really put a crick in your neck trying to look.”
But he said he expects to be able to see the reflection of what’s on the screen while coming through Turn 2 and onto the backstretch, especially during night races.
The board weighs 108 tons.
Panasonic executive Richard Ballard said construction of the video board and its support structure were completed in a condensed four-month schedule.
Ballard said the screens at Charlotte and Texas “really launched” his company inside the sports industry. Churchill Downs is building a new screen to be in place for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
While not being specific, Gossage said there were other potential developers attending Wednesday night as they consider such boards. He also said the Texas board could open the door to other kinds of events outside of racing at his track.
Asked how much the screen cost, Gossage would only say, “a lot.”