Ethanol returned to the old brickyard recently with the premier of the Ethanol fueled Hemelgarn Racing Dallara-Toyota-Firestone race car. Driver Jimmy Kite drove the car during the recent Miller Lite Carb Day Activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During the ten-lap demo, he was able to drive at speeds exceeding 220mph using a blend of 50% Ethanol and 50% Methanol.

Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing is a new company formed by fitness magnate Ron Hemelgarn to develop Ethanol race cars and promote Ethanol use within the racing industry.

Indy Ethanol Car

Driver Jimmy Kite and the Ethanol Powered Hemelgarn Indy Car
Photo Credit: Bret Kelley/IRL/IMS

The Indy Racing League has announced that all cars competing in the 2006 Indy Car Racing Series will utilize a blend of 10% Ethanol blended with 90% Methanol, however in 2007 the fuel used will be 100% Ethanol. In the past, Methanol has long been the fuel of choice for Indy Series race cars. It replaced gasoline during the 70’s as its reduced flammability made it a much safer fuel in the event of a crash.

The higher heat of combustion along with other differences in the characteristics of the fuel may require some tweaking of the engines but as Indy Series driver Paul Dana stated, “It’s more of a software problem in this day of computer-controlled engines.”

Recently, political pressure has been applied to NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Racing) asking them to switch to ethanol-blended unleaded fuel. NASCAR race cars use highly toxic leaded gasoline which has been banned from highway use in the United States since 1975. However, by law, NASCAR is exempt from the ban on leaded gasoline. In April, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and other members of the Senate Biofuels Caucus sent a letter to Brian France, Chairman of NASCAR asking that the racing organization switch to Ethanol based fuels blended with unleaded gasoline.

“NASCAR’s first speedway was located in a rural area surrounded by farmland,” wrote Harkin. “It is only fitting that NASCAR becomes a leader in promoting renewable fuels made from corn grown on family farms. A move to use ethanol by NASCAR would provide a benefit to its legions of fans by assisting the local economy and environment while increasing America’s energy security and reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil.” The environmental organization Clean Air Watch added its voice to the senator’s appeal asking Chairman France “If Kazakhstan can eliminate lead from gasoline, why can’t NASCAR?” Based upon a search of the NASCAR website it does not appear that NASCAR officials have responded to the call for the elimination of leaded fuel.




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