Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon Say E15 Good for the USA, Good for the Environment
by Joanne Ivancic (Advanced Biofuels USA) Use of E15 in NASCAR vehicles is so new that Top NASCAR drivers, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., are still giving pretty much unpackaged, sincerely candid answers about it.
When asked if driving at NASCAR using E15 meant anything to them as drivers or as individuals, both swiftly agreed that, as Earhhardt said, “The transition was seamless.” Neither even noticed that there was any difference at all in their experience of the new fuel. There were so many other changes that they were digesting, from the newly rebuilt incredibly smooth and bumpless track surface, to the new aerodynamic systems of the race vehicles, to a new style of nose-to-tail draft pairs; the invisible transition to new fuels was so “seamless” it wasn’t even in their consciousness.
What this transition meant to them as individuals? Jeff Gordon suggested that “Junior” take the first crack at that one.
It was pretty clear that Earnhardt hadn’t tried to articulate this before. He knew that a new sponsor was involved; but in the end, that wasn’t the important thing to him. As he rummaged through his thoughts, he put it all together saying, “Over the long haul, it’s good for the US, good for those folks out West that grow corn.” (Anything West of the Appalachians is “out West” to a North Carolinian.)
Gordon seconded everything that Earnhardt said and added that the sport of racing must be relevant; that transitioning to E15 was good for the environment and something that NASCAR should be doing. He also noted that his long-time sponsor, DuPont, developed Pioneer brand seed. He could also have added that DuPont is a leader in development of advanced biofuels of the future with its work on cellulosic biofuels with DuPont Danisco and on biobutanol with Butamax (being tested by Dyson Racing in the American Le Mans Series).
The new sponsors whose identities slipped Earnhardt’s mind, American Ethanol and Growth Energy, intended that highlighting NASCAR’s use of E15 would serve to alleviate some of the public misapprehensions about the performance and quality of ethanol blends of gasoline. This quite positive, spontaneous response from the day’s two top drivers should meet those objectives quite clearly.
Understanding the deeper complexities of the role of home-grown fuels in enhancing energy security, reviving rural economies, promoting military flexibility or mitigating climate change and air pollution will come as they become more engaged with the political and social aspects of today’s use of corn ethanol and tomorrow’s advanced biofuels.
NASCAR has become a leader in the promotion and use of home-grown biofuels. The public will want to know what those drivers, who stand for all that is NASCAR, think and feel about these important changes; changes that affect not only how their race cars run (no problems there) but also how this society will be developing over the next 10, 20, 50 years.