Mario Clouser's USAC Midget...
Mario Clouser's USAC Midget runs on ethanol. If he's successful more racers will likely follow.
Editor's Note: On our recent visit to the 12 Hours of Sebring, we had the opportunity to sit down with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lee Slezak, Manager-Advanced Vehicle Systems Simulation & Evaluation Office of Freedom Car and Vehicle Technologies to talk about their Green Racing program. Last month gave you the gist of what the program was about. This month we go in depth at how this program could affect our segment of the motorsports world.
CT: How does the DOE view green racing could help oval track racing?
LS: Another aspect of the green angle is the finances, a lot of the technologies that can be brought into a circle-track series or the more grassroots-type series are actually technologies that, when implemented, can save the racers and the teams money. Instead of using a carbureted pushrod engine, switch to a fuel-injected engine running on E85. You can buy E85, especially in the Midwest and increasingly at more and more locations in other parts of the country, at a fraction of what you'd pay for high-octane racing gas or racing methanol.
Manufacturers years ago went from a carbureted engine to mechanical fuel injection, now it's electronic fuel injection and they didn't do it to be neat or to be the hot kids on the block. They did it to improve their fuel economy. And again, whether you're on a short circle track or running a 12-hour event on a road course like here at Sebring, you want to use the least amount of fuel.
Revolution Racing Engines'...
Revolution Racing Engines' electronically fuel injected Midget motor is based on the production Chevy EcoTec engine, and uses many OEM parts, costing a fraction of a built Midget motor. Courtesy Revolution Racing Engines
So by bringing an electronic fuel injection E85 package into the circle-track environment you've got the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of fuel teams are using to run their events and you can still do it just as fast as you did before, if not faster. Plus, you're producing fewer emissions, because you're using less fuel. For the racer, you're reducing the costs of operations. Everybody knows that one of the biggest expenses you have besides tires is the fuel that you're using race after race after race.
CT: So why grassroots racing?
LS: It's a great opportunity for education. With some of the larger series you've got huge events with tens of thousands of fans, in some cases over hundreds of thousands of fans attending these events. Yeah, they all watch the cars go around, but they don't all get the opportunity to see what's going on with the different vehicles up close. They don't necessarily have that close interaction with the drivers, with the crewmembers.
That's one of the things I love about going to these short-track events. Like going to a World of Outlaws event, or other Sprint events or Modifieds, the fans who are there are able to interact with the mechanics, with the crew, with the drivers. In a lot of cases, they know these people, they're people in their community. So, when those local racers are starting to adopt these technologies which are more efficient, which are greener, the people around them are going to be able to learn about it from them. They'll be able to say, "Why in the world did you start running that?" And they'll find out that, yeah, I can run just as fast, be cleaner, pay less money, and use less fuel by using these technologies. And by the way, I filled that race car up on the way to the track at that station down the street.
CT: So short-track racing could take the lead in teaching the public about fuel options and other technologies?
LS: Absolutely, it's an excellent education tool, because if this country is really going to address the energy security concerns that it has right now and stop sending money overseas you've got to start switching away from petroleum. Well over 50 percent of our petroleum comes from overseas. And that money is leaving our country every time we put a gallon of gas in our cars on the streets. So why not switch to a fuel that's actually produced here in the United States? Locally grown, locally used-the money stays here and it's cleaner and better for all of us.