The 2011 NASCAR season closed in historic fashion. Jimmie Johnson was denied a sixth consecutive title. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards dueled all the way to the very last race, generating ESPN's highest-rated NASCAR event to date.
But it was also historic for another reason. There was a change that may have been subtle to the casual observer, but its impact was carefully monitored in executive suites and in the garage.
Through an innovative partnership with American agriculture, every race car and truck in NASCAR’s top three series were fueled by Sunoco Green E15, a 15%-ethanol blend fuel made with corn grown by American farmers. NASCAR views the use of Sunoco Green E15 as win for the environment and the economy.
According to a press release distributed by NASCAR here are some facts about the blended fuel:
* Corn ethanol is one of our nation’s oldest sources of fuel. In fact, Henry Ford’s first automobile was designed to run on ethanol.
* American ethanol creates jobs in the U.S. that cannot be outsourced and it fosters our energy independence.
* If the entire nation moved to Sunoco Green E15 – as NASCAR has done – we could remove carbon from the air equivalent to taking 1.35 million cars off the road.
* Sunoco Green E15 is made at a special blend center inside our refinery in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.
"I would say the prevailing feeling about Sunoco Green E15 is better than good, it's actually great," said NASCAR's Mike Lynch, managing director of green innovation. "Leading up to its debut was a two-year effort with a tremendous amount of live track testing and scientists doing their due diligence. We had to be sure that the fuel would stand up to the demanding conditions of racing."
The largest segment of NASCAR nation – and perhaps most crucial - to win over was the drivers.
"At first, I didn’t know what to think," said Clint Bowyer, one of NASCAR's top drivers. "Then we met with the folks at NASCAR, American Ethanol, and Growth Energy, and figured out that not only was it going to cut back on emissions we are putting into the atmosphere, but we are getting an increase in horsepower with Sunoco Green E 15. I’m all about more horsepower from these ECR engines. All of this was implemented without major changes to the engines on these race cars. I didn’t have any issues with it and think it is great for the sport. Everything ran smooth this year and we saw no significant engines issues."
Lynch was quick to give credit to the drivers, team owners, investors and sponsors for their cooperation in making the roll out and transition successful.
"We at NASCAR couldn't be more proud of well everyone responded to this effort," said Lynch.
NASCAR has long been at the forefront of environmental issues. In 2009, to neutralize carbon from its race, 10 trees are planted at race tracks for every green flag that falls during all races in the season. There is also an extensive wireless recycling program through Sprint, NASCAR's title sponsor. Fans who visit the Sprint Experience at NASCAR races can pick up a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope to recycle their used wireless phones, batteries and accessories, from any carrier and in any condition.
"We know our fans are passionate about the environment and jobs creation,” said Lynch. “Those are two very important issues. NASCAR is a huge family of 70 million people. Once that large a group of people puts its mind to doing something, it's a powerful thing.”