By Brian D. Smith, W9IND
Your chance to obtain the 2020 W9IMS Checkered Flag Award – or at least a QSL card commemorating this year’s Indianapolis 500 – unfolds in the coming week. And both amateur radio operators and SWLs are welcome to try.
This year’s certificate is easier than ever to earn. Normally the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s three major races take place on three different weekends, but this year, because of Covid-19 concerns, two races were consolidated into one weekend – and in turn, two W9IMS special events merged into one.
For anyone who bagged that two-in-one event, you can seal the deal on the certificate by catching the station again between now and Sunday, Aug. 23. The Indy 500 operation will conclude at midnight local time (0400 UTC) Monday, Aug. 24. (Note: Indianapolis is on EDT or New York time.)
Even if you succeed in snaring W9IMS only once, you can still claim the corresponding QSL card. All certificate and QSL designs are brand-new each year.
How to find W9IMS? The station’s two transmitters will operate on three bands – 20, 40 and 80 meters – and may appear at any time of day or night until the final signoff at 0400 UTC Monday.
However, the best bet is to catch the station during prime time – 2200 through 0200 UTC on weeknights (6 to 10 p.m. Indy time). W9IMS operators will frequently activate 20 meters on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. (1200-1800 UTC); and will cover all three bands at various times throughout the weekend starting at 10 a.m. (1400 UTC) daily.
If you still haven’t caught W9IMS by 11 p.m. Sunday in Indianapolis (0300 UTC Monday), operators commonly conduct their own “happy hour” – working stations in rapid contesting style – during that final hour of the special event. But W9IMS has also been known to pull the plug a little early on Sunday evening if no stations are calling.
Here are tips for locating the station:
- Go to the W9IMS web page (www.w9ims.org), find the “2020 Operating Schedule” heading, and click on the link to “Indianapolis 500.” Although some W9IMS operators make unscheduled appearances, you’ll have better odds looking for the station during the hours and bands reserved with a name and a callsign.
- Even so, never assume that W9IMS is off the air. Check DX Summit (www.dxsummit.fi) for spots that identify the station’s current frequency (or frequencies), if any. Type “W9IMS” in the search box and you can customize it to show reports for only that station.
- Preferred frequencies for W9IMS are 3.840, 7.245 and 14.245 MHz, so the station can usually be found there or within 10 kHz.
For further details, consult the W9IMS web page. Feel free to submit your requests for the 2020 QSL cards plus certificate in the same envelope, and if you don’t have your own QSL card, a printout of your W9IMS contacts or reception reports will suffice.
Remember to include $5 for the certificate plus two cards; or an SASE for one or both of the cards alone — the house rule is “No SASE, no W9IMS card, no exception!”