NASCAR, the National Association for Auto Stock Car Racing, the world’s largest motor sports association, is trying to green its image. Under chairman and CEO, Brian France, NASCAR is seeking to become a true environmental leader. This may seem like a paradox for a sport where the goal is to drive the fastest and thus burn more fossil fuels. However, the league has taken some big steps to green their image in the last few years, which deserve to be acknowledged.
Auto racing would be the last industry — and an industry, it is — to adopt environmentally friendly practices. Races can be up to 500 miles long and involve fifty vehicles driving at extremely fast speeds. Each track is different, but the fastest is the Talledega Superspeedway with an average speed of 188 miles per hour (303 km/hr)! These racecars are not exactly fuel-sipping either; the average fuel economy is a dismal five miles per gallon! Do the math: fifty cars, 500 miles each at five mpg.
That is just one race. There are three major racing series: Sprint, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck. Each racing series has between 25 and 36 races each. Altogether, there are 95 races scheduled for 2011, and that does not include time trials, all-star races, duels, showdowns, and the many smaller racing series which the league sanctions. Then of course, there are the millions of fans who travel to the races in their cars, trucks, and RVs.
NASCAR is a sport that certainly burns a lot of fuel. Realizing this, management of the association, under France, is making efforts to offset their carbon emissions. They have joined forces with sponsors to set up the world’s largest recycling program. They maintain the world’s largest solar-powered sports facility at the Pocono Raceway. They have also done a massive tree-planting which NASCAR claims neutralized all carbon emissions produced by the Sprint Cup Series racecars.
Their most recent step is to change the fuel used in all three major national series to Sunoco Green E15, a 15 percent ethanol blend made from domestic corn. While the benefits of corn-based ethanol are debatable, they will help NASCAR lower carbon emissions while not affecting engine performance, the sport’s biggest concern.
One of the biggest concerns for the fans will be that the new fuel will decrease vehicle’s miles per gallon, leading to more frequent pit stops. However, after extensive testing, the new fuel has no measurable impacts on NASCAR’s high performance engines. If this is the case, it will be a significant net reduction of 15 percent for fossil fuel consumption (not counting fuel required for ethanol production).
NASCAR is not exactly a model for environmental friendliness, but the new fuel is a significant step in the right direction. The next move which the league is considering is the introduction of electronic fuel-injection which could greatly improve miles per gallon. Hopefully they will continually adopt new fuel-efficiency technologies as they emerge. In the grand scheme of things, it is interesting to know that even a sport as gas-guzzling as NASCAR is trying to green their image. Just another sign of the times.
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Article by David A Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.