Argonne researcher Danny Bocci (a.k.a. Bill Gates) calibrates the data logger which uses a
Because the Project G.R.E.E.N. Camaro is an experimental demonstration vehicle, we asked not to be scored nor did we take any points. We thought it was only fair since we were the only car in the race running with an electronically controlled, fuel-injected motor and one with pump-grade E85 in the tank. None of us minded since our reason for being there was to demonstrate the technology. I'd get my chance to compete for a win the following day but that's another story.
Greg McCarns allowed us to start the feature at the tail end of the field, which put me in 25th place. As soon as the green flag dropped on the first 33-lap segment, I began to drive toward the front. One characteristic of the EFI engine was that I had more torque available earlier in the powerband, meaning I could drive off the corner much faster than the carbureted engines. I'd pull them down the straightaways enough that they couldn't get near me entering the next corner. It's actually a pretty cool feeling to know that going into a race you've got the ability to get off the corner quickly.
Bocci discusses the data with driver Dalton Zehr during a break in practice.
I quickly made it comfortably inside the top 20 when the brake pedal began to get soft. By the time the first segment was over, I only had half a brake pedal. That prevented me from using all of the power the Camaro had. Mark Jones, crew chief, and I spent much of the break between the first and second segments searching for and ultimately repairing the problem. Debris on the track had caused a hairline crack in one of the master cylinder reservoirs and the Camaro was slowly loosing fluid. I remembered hitting something but I really didn't think anything of it at the time.
We barely had enough time to finish the repair and get back onto the racetrack for segment number two. I spent much of that 33-lap segment tip toeing my way around the track to make sure the problem was repaired. I figured I'd throw down in the final segment.
The Project G.R.E.E.N. Camaro runs on pump-grade E85 which costs about $2.65 per gallon. T
After some minor chassis adjustments and a once over on the brake system during the break between segments two and three, the Project G.R.E.E.N. team was ready to tackle the final segment. Because of our brake problems we restarted the third segment dead last (25th). But once again, the EFI motor coupled with the E85 proved to be a really racey platform and I came through the field to finish the equivalent of 15th just behind the yellow No. 22 of Nick Panitzke from Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and in front of Ross Kenseth (son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Matt Kenseth).
The engine ran flawlessly against the more powerful Super Late Models. And when you sit back and analyze it, it's pretty impressive. We took a basically stock LS3, the same EFI engine found in a production Camaro and ran competitively against the best SLM racers in the country. I was really able to power off the corners and down the straight, a direct result of the electronically controlled engine.
Another important factor that makes EFI not only an effective oval track racing platform but one that I'll continually promote has to do with ease of travel. What do I mean by that? It's simple. Oktoberfest is, obviously, in October in Wisconsin. The last time the car was run was at our track test at New Smyrna Speedway in July in Florida. Once back from that test, the car sat in our shop until a few days before we were scheduled to head north. We did our final prep and literally loaded the car onto the hauler and drove to Chicago. The car was fired a couple times at Argonne and then we loaded it back up and headed to the track. We put fresh tires on for practice and went out and turned respectable 18.8 second laps.