NASCAR Runs on Ethanol from Indiana Corn
In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to learn more about NASCAR, specifically, the American Ethanol made from Indiana Corn that fuels NASCAR. From a stalk of corn in a field to the fuel in a tank, corn not only feeds us, it fuels one of America’s passions- automobile racing. I think it’s awesome that NASCAR runs on ethanol, and that it comes from Indiana corn!
Last month, I asked: What is a Flex Fuel Vehicle? Many of you shared that you do in fact have a flex fuel enabled vehicle but you didn’t use the E85 found at many local gas stations for a variety of reasons. Many of those reasons were due to inaccurate information given to you and frankly- it all can be confusing. Hopefully in this 3 part series I can help with that or at least point you in the right direction for science-based information.
Many years ago, ethanol was put into production as a fuel so that farmers could make their own fuel and become self sufficient. Heck, the Model T ran on ethanol. Ethanol , or ethyl alcohol, is an alcohol fuel that is distilled from plants that have starch or sugar in them such as potatoes, beets, sugar cane and corn and more. Using what grows in excess in your particular area. For example, the country of Brazil is successfully run on ethanol (meaning this is what fuels their automobiles) and their ethanol is derived from sugar cane. That is a plentiful crop in Brazil.
In Indiana,and much of the United States, we create our ethanol from corn. This is a simple process (see HERE for a detailed explanation) in which the alcohol is produced as well as dry distillers grain (think food for animals), carbon dioxide (think carbonated beverages), corn oil and more. Every bushel of corn processed by an ethanol plant produces roughly 17 pounds of animal feed (source). All of this is to say whereas it is a processed fuel, it is a natural process that has been occurring for years. Indiana is home to 13 completed ethanol plants that produce over 1 billion gallons of ethanol a year from over 430 million bushels of corn. (source)
That’s pretty amazing.
Where does NASCAR fit in?
Since 2008, NASCAR has led the way by becoming one of the most innovative environmental platforms in the United States. NASCAR strives to reduce their footprint through constantly improving technology and sustainable behavior. NASCAR has a partnership with Sunoco and American Ethanol and through this relationship they have launched a long-term plan to reduce emissions, use renewable energy and recycle in all of their 3 racing series’.
NASCAR has now run over 7 million miles on Sunoco Green E15, a 15% ethanol blend fuel that is American made from American corn. Through this use, NASCAR has reduced their greenhouse emissions by at least 20% while also increasing horsepower.
In addition to only using renewable fuel sources like American ethanol, NASCAR is a leader in using solar power, offering electric powering stations, tire recycling, event recycling, participating in a green clean air program, and planting trees in areas ravaged by natural disasters.
I had the opportunity to attend the Brickyard 400 with my family as a guest of Growth Energy, American Ethanol and Indiana Corn so that I could get a ‘backstage look’ into all that goes on to present a safe and efficient race. I was amazed and as someone who has never really attended a race before, I enjoyed every bit of it. Ok, not the heat, but the rest of it.
I was able to talk to not only proud corn farmers about their choice to sell their corn for the production of ethanol, I also had the opportunity to ask questions (I had many) from those that work in the industry that provides our country with a clean, renewable and available fuel- ethanol. We all agreed that education and correct information on the why and how of ethanol use is key. Next month I will be digging a bit more into that and share what scientists involved in new innovations in this field have to say.
Did I mention that I had a chance to speak with Austin Dillon, the driver of the Richard Childress Racing, #3 car? Well, I did. Not only is he a NASCAR driver using ethanol on the track, he is also a consumer that fuels his personal vehicle on E85. I asked him why it is important for him to use ethanol on and off the track-
“Each time I fill my tank I am putting money back into this country. Ethanol is a clean fuel that is made by Americans and employs Americans. It provides jobs and I feel good about that”
We took a tour of the hauler area, you know- the giant trailers that hold a few race cars, spare engines, the crew and enough technology to launch a space mission. They are amazing. So sleek and clean and really- stuffed with everything the crew needs to build, rebuild and test each car and in every environment.
I had a pass that allowed me to go pretty much anywhere- so I did. I spent most of my time observing the action in the pit. Right up and in there and I was so out of place. But everyone was great and I was even asked to get up in the action to watch. Not touch anything and standing perfectly still- but watching. I loved it.
All in all- it was an amazing experience. I spent several hours over the last few weeks with those who are at the helm of ushering our country into a new phase of self sufficiency through a clean, renewable and available fuel- ethanol. Seeing this in action on the track at speeds of over 170 miles per hour- indescribable. Stay tuned next month for when I geek out about the science behind ethanol and how it made it’s way to Hollywood!
Whereas I was invited to learn more about American ethanol- all opinions contained in this post are my own.