NASCAR Pushed to Explore Renewable Fuels

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By CHRIS JENKINS
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 21, 2007; 5:01 PM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- While working for General Motors in Brazil in the 1990s, Brent Dewar got a firsthand look at the country's successful switch from an oil-based economy to ethanol. Dewar wants to see the same thing happen in the United States, and he thinks NASCAR can help. He's lobbying officials to consider a switch from gasoline to ethanol.

"We would embrace it," said Dewar, GM's vice president of field sales, service and parts. "We think it would be great on a lot of fronts, because obviously it would send a signal to the public. A lot of people don't understand the benefits of ethanol."

Other racing series already are embracing renewable fuels. Beginning this season, the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series will race on 100 percent ethanol. And the American LeMans Series will race on a 10 percent ethanol blend.

Now, Dewar and others in the garage said they believe NASCAR should explore alternative fuels _ and no, not the kind Michael Waltrip was caught with in Daytona.

"Without a doubt, I think we should look into it," driver Jeff Burton said. "Although our impact on environmental issues is probably very, very small from an actual use standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, we could have a major impact."

Driver Kyle Petty says NASCAR's marketing horsepower might drive alternative fuels into the mainstream, helping consumers get over the image of hippies tinkering with their 1980s Mercedes to make them run on vegetable oil.

"I think once you start seeing alternative fuels show up in places like racing and places where you least expect them, then you don't think about that guy with the Volkswagen van that runs off of whatever," Petty said.

NASCAR is taking one step in the direction of environmental responsibility by getting the lead out, catching up with a change most consumers made in the 1980s by switching from leaded to unleaded fuel.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said officials are willing to consider renewable fuels, too.

"In terms of looking at the next step, obviously we're open to options," Poston said.

Petty figures the whole country will switch to renewable fuels at some point, so it makes sense for NASCAR and its official fuel supplier, Sunoco, to lead the way.

"You would like to think that they would take a leading role in it, especially through Sunoco's involvement," Petty said. "Because I know Sunoco's taken a huge step in that direction."


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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