CONCORD, N.C._ Brian France met with members of the media Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway to announce after years of development, NASCAR will be making the switch from unleaded fuel to E15 ethanol. Sunoco will provide the 15 percent ethanol blend to the sport in their continued partnership as the official fuel provider of NASCAR.

“NASCAR is committed to being an environmental leader, and the sport has taken significant steps over the years toward conservation by introducing measurable, best-in-class initiatives in recycling, alternative energy, and carbon mitigation,” France said.

“The transition to Sunoco Green E15 takes our long-term sustainability strategy to the next level. Sunoco Green E15 is good for racing, good for the environment and good for America,” he added. “While fueling the same close, door-to-door racing that thrills our fans, American ethanol creates jobs in the United States, helps foster energy independence, and continues the greening of our sport.”

The fuel will be cleaner burning and better from a performance standpoint, as it will create more horsepower, according to NASCAR’s vice president of competition Robin Pemberton.

“The testing has been going on at the track at test facilities,” Pemberton said. “Teams have been able to run it at a few tire tests so far this year with great results. All drivers like more power, so they have smiles on their faces for that. We’re pleased with everything. The work will continue.”

The goal is to implement the use of the Sunoco E15 fuel is by Daytona in February in the three NASCAR touring series.

Pemberton explained after the announcement teams have been testing various batches and blends at the track and on the dyno throughout the year. With this particular blend, Pemberton said it has been available to teams for the past few months.  

In talking to various crews throughout the garage, most said they had yet to test the E15 in their cars on the track or on the dynos. The heavy hitters amongst the engine builders – Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt Childress Racing, and Roush Yates Engines – seem to be the ones that have done the majority of development work. One source said Hendrick had only one test with the blend on the dyno, which happened last week.

Michael Waltrip Racing’s Pat Tryson – crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. – said their team had yet to test the fuel blend, but said they would test it in Orlando in the coming weeks and at a tire test following next weekend’s race in Martinsville.

For many, the biggest question lingering about the new fuel blend is how it will alter the fuel mileage during a race. According to Pemberton, that will be a non-issue.

“The mileage, it will be seamless,” he said. “You won’t even know if there’s a difference. I think after our experts, meaning in the garage area, they get ahold of it, they’ll take that opportunity and more than likely make gains with it.”

Talking to various crew members throughout the garage – Pemberton’s experts – they tend to disagree about the mileage being seamless. One source said he had heard the mileage was horrible, others said they were worried about it running leaner and causing engine issues.

Crew chief Gil Martin said the E15 fuel will make it more difficult for teams because the cars will burn more fuel and may change pit strategy moving forward, that is unless NASCAR allows teams to use a larger fuel cell – something he sees as highly unlikely.

Overall, the belief in the garage area is this move is a positive one for the sport and one that will be easier than the transition from leaded fuel to unleaded fuel that occurred in 2007.

Not only will NASCAR’s move to Sunoco Green E15 fuel have a better environmental impact, it will also create agricultural jobs, ethanol jobs and – according to the video shown – will help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

At a time when U.S. auto manufacturers are making a move to greener technologies for their products, NASCAR is aiding in that process by showcasing that technology at work at the track.

“It is our goal to utilize our racing programs to link technology from the race track to the street, to encourage the use of biofuels, and to maintain a high level of brand character in the Chevrolet race cars we have on track,” said Jim Campbell, General Motors vice president performance vehicles and motorsports. “This is a welcome move by NASCAR and we applaud their efforts to promote a cleaner environment.”

“Our country clearly has a rather large view, clear view that (ethanol) is going to be one of those fuels that are going to work now and into the future,” France said. “So it’s available. It meets our requirements from going in the right direction on carbon emissions. It meets our requirement on being domestic, homegrown with the entire farming industry playing a role. That’s a nice thing for us in helping power what goes on Sundays.”

Perhaps at a time when blue collar fans are feeling neglected and tuning out, American made ethanol powering a greener NASCAR on Sundays is just what the doctor ordered.

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