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January 26, 2015

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In NASCAR, green no longer just means go

Motor sports league and its fans embrace environmentally friendly initiatives


Tom Donoghue/

NASCAR race cars use a fuel that is 15 percent ethanol.

When NASCAR race cars whip around Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, they’ll be doing it on a fuel that contains 15 percent ethanol.

It’s the third year the motor sports league has employed a blend using ethanol, and while NASCAR fans may have been hesitant at first toward the move to green, they have since embraced it.

Ethanol, a corn-based fuel that is mixed into gasoline used in the cars, is American-produced and emits about 60 percent less greenhouse pollutants than gasoline.

“There’s probably no sport more American, and there’s no fuel more American than ethanol,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, an industry association.

Buis said most gas sold at the local gas station contains about 10 percent ethanol, and NASCAR’s commitment to using the alternative blend has allowed people to see how effective it can be.

“There’s no better testing or proving ground,” Buis said. “If it’s good enough for Jimmie Johnson, it’s good enough for me.”

Buis said using more ethanol can reduce dependence on foreign oil. Additionally, it beefs up a car’s horsepower, he said.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has joined the green movement, too. It donates leftover concessions to food banks and switched to all plastic bottles in 2012.

But those initiatives are just part of the steps NASCAR has taken to become more green. League partners have developed green programs. Goodyear recycles tires, Sprint offers phone recycling and Creative Recycling takes care of old electronics, such as laptops.

Coca-Cola began a recycling program in 2008 that now covers 19 tracks where NASCAR races take place. Last year, more than 5 million containers were recycled in Coca-Cola recycling bins — more than 100,000 of them from Las Vegas.

“Those cans and bottles can be used to make other beverage containers, clothing, carpet, furniture and many other items,” said Alain Robichaud, president of Coca-Cola Recycling. “We’re proud of our relationship with NASCAR and are pleased to help them demonstrate that good things happen when you recycle.”

According to the racing league, NASCAR fans are 100 percent more likely to view their households as green-friendly than nonfans.

“It’s a very counterintuitive outcome, but it’s massively important because it speaks to the influence that NASCAR can have,” said Mike Lynch, managing director of green innovation for NASCAR. “It gives us this opportunity to show fans that green doesn’t mean more expensive.”

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  1. Diverting a large amount of the corn crop to ethanol is a financial win for corn farmers ( corn corporations) but is bad for consumers because it drives up a very wide range of food prices (not just limited to corn products). Of course, good-ole-boy NASCAR is oblivious to this.

  2. You have to love Joan Respondi.

    Not many people could take an article about going green and change it to blaming NASCAR for the high price of Twinkies. :-)