NASCAR's big push: Revving the engines with ethanol
The NBA has Nike; the NFL, Reebok. Now, NASCAR has ethanol.
Starting in February 2011, the league’s race car drivers will add another logo on their vehicles, marking the use of fuel blended with 15 percent ethanol in all cars on the speedway.
The partnership between the corn-based fuel and America’s most watched sport was officially launched Dec. 2 with a live simulcast in 14 locations across the country.
A small contingency from Missouri’s ethanol industry and a few NASCAR enthusiasts gathered in Columbia, Mo., to watch the satellite feed of a national award ceremony in Las Vegas celebrating “the year in NASCAR.” The announcement about engines, fuel and corn came at the end.
“Today, we begin to tell the great American story of ethanol in partnership with another great American story, the story of NASCAR. There’s probably nothing more American than NASCAR, and there’s no fuel more American than ethanol,” said Tom Buis, CEO of ethanol trade group Growth Energy, speaking from Las Vegas.
The partnership announcement comes on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow cars 2007 and newer to use E-15. But the EPA has delayed a decision on cars from model years 2001 to 2006 until next year.
Ethanol has received mixed reviews as a fuel. While corn industry supporters say it is safe for cars, others — including the oil industry and recreational vehicle groups — say ethanol can damage engines.
But NASCAR’s willingness to use E-15 fuel in pricey race cars is a nod to the fuel’s safety and reliability, said Gary Clark, executive director of Missouri Corn Growers.
“It shows that they don’t see any drawback to it, in fact they look to it as a benefit to the power side of things,” said Clark, who attended the Columbia event. “This is ready to move forward; now we just need to put the rest of the wheels underneath it.”