Environmentalists may scoff, but the motorsports industry is meeting critics more than halfway with a variety of “green” programs. The American Le Mans Series has the Michelin Green X Challenge and NASCAR is doing a number of things to clean up the air at the track (and it has nothing to do with Kurt Busch…sorry couldn’t resist a potshot).
The NASCAR switch to ethanol E85 has made a big difference. Though hardly scientific, the air inside Bristol Motor Speedway is trapped by the bowl shape and high grandstands that completely surround the infield. NASCAR veterans have always complained of the “Bristol headache” after the race because a whole race worth exhaust gas has nowhere to go. “My dad used to complain about going to Bristol,” says Doug Yates. “He didn’t like the smell and the smog and all the contaminants. That’s cleaned up a lot.” E85 and the fuel injection engine have reduced the need for Tylenol on the way back home from a Bristol event.
Not so long ago, Jack Roush used to take great pride jetting carburetors. He would hold the carb high by all four corners, like a priest holds up a challis at mass, and take it to the car when he was finished with a jetting job. So a great ceremony is another “green” casualty.
Roush/Yates engine guru Doug Yates says there is another gain. That’s because the fuel injection system controls the fuel/air mixture much more precisely. It also eliminates the off-throttle flames coming out of the exhaust from unburned fuel.
Drivers welcome the change, too. If you’ve ever driven a carbureted high-performance car, you can never completely eliminate bucks, snorts and pops from the engine, especially at part throttle. “Drivers love how it gets out of the pits. Matt Kenseth said it best. ‘Every carburetor has its own personality. And through a race weekend you just learn how to deal with it,’” reports Yates. “Now these things start up really nice…the drive really nice. Some of the chugging and lugging is gone. The guys have really appreciated that part.”
Roush/Yates takes the green endeavor even further by using Valvoline NextGen oil. The formulation is half recycled oil, which reduces our dependence on foreign oil as well as our carbon footprint. “It’s fabulous,” says Yates. “It’s the real deal, taking used oil and refining it. If you look at things NASCAR has done, the green initiative, they’re actually doing it.”
Still, racers are racers and all they care about is being first at the checkers. 2011 Sprint Cup runner-up Carl Edwards will even testify that NextGen didn’t let him down.
Doug Yates is optimistic about the future of the sport and advances in engine technologies. “There are a lot of good things going on in our sport,” in Yates’ view. “Racing can’t be totally green. We don’t want to race electrics. The fans wouldn’t like it. There’s something about V-8 thunder that appeals to the fans. Maybe there is a hybrid solution in the future. We’ll just have to see.”
Green is not an unlucky color in racing any more. So wear a green shirt the next time you go to the track. Valvoline has them for sale. Visit www.ashlandstore.com