Ladies and Green Racing Ideas Come Together at Daytona Beach—ARCA—Practice
by Joanne Ivancic (Advanced Biofuels USA) Although it was only a few years ago that NASCAR stopped using leaded fuel in its cars, change is again in the air. With hot racers like Danica Patrick, Milka Duno and Leilani Munter bringing new media attention and new fans from the open wheel series; and with recycling, energy conservation and other NASCAR Green Innovations promised, there may be hope for NASCAR to embrace new engine and fuel technologies that will enhance US energy security and showcase once again winning American automotive industry advances.
Danica Brings Open Wheel Fans to NASCAR
Just like IndyCar racer Danica Patrick’s current NASCAR series adventure is powered by GoDaddy.com, so is the Advanced Biofuels USA website. The GoDaddy.com commercials playing during their first major sponsorship of Danica’s IndyCar ride convinced us to start up a website using GoDaddy services.
So, it was natural that we paid close attention to that fluorescent streak on the Daytona Beach track at the ARCA practice session in December.
However, Danica Patrick was not the only draw to this event.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
For a few years we have been watching and encouraging Leilani Munter’s aspirations to become a great car racer, in part, because she embraces the concept of “green racing.” Leilani brings an academic background in biology and dedication to improving the quality of how we interact with our environment to her “day job” with GREENandSAVE‘s LED Savings Solutions helping companies refit their buildings’ lighting to money-saving and energy-saving LED. She brings that same interest in promoting environmentally friendly change to the race track, to Capitol Hill, to her CarbonFreeGirl web site, to her IndyCar racing and to her ARCA and NASCAR aspirations.
It’s not easy to marry these varied dimensions of her life. That effort received a boost with Nextera Energy’s sponsorship of her ARCA practice event at Daytona. NextEra Energy Resources is the Official Renewable Energy Provider of Daytona International and Homestead-Miami Speedways, the perfect fit for a promising, articulate driver who shares their values and interests.
Leilani hopes that NextEra will continue their sponsorship into the 2010 racing season. She sees more potential for sponsorship for ARCA and NASCAR-related events due to the greater exposure (bigger crowds, better TV coverage, not to mention Danica Patrick’s coat tails) compared to the Indy Pro or IndyLights races which have scant TV coverage or other media attention this year.
Sponsors might also be encouraged by NASCAR President Mike Helton’s personal visit and welcome to Leilani at Daytona Beach.
Life is Short. Race Hard.
Friday of the Daytona Beach practice weekend was rained out by the December 2009 storm that started in Florida, flooded the South and left the North snowed in. Leilani and the Mark Gibson Racing (MGR) NextEra Energy Resources Dodge team used sunny Saturday to get comfortable on the track and refine the settings on the car.
The hard work paid off quite well during Sunday’s group drafting practices, moving in a pack, chasing and passing, getting comfortable racing the ARCA cars in close quarters. Media and supporters in the stands could tell they were having fun, flying around the track, taking different lines, pushing and pulling each other, communicating like a school of fish that respond instantly, instinctively, to the movement of the others. Interviews with both Leilani and Danica confirmed those impressions, with Leilani admitting to a shouted “WhooooHoooo!” along the back straightaway.
“Throughout the weekend we tried a lot of different set ups for the car and by Sunday afternoon, Mark Gibson and the team had really figured out what package we needed under the car,” commented Leilani. “They are great guys and they gave me a great car to drive. It’s so much fun being out there in quality equipment. I had a lot of fun drafting with Danica Patrick and Bobby Gerhart, and that’s a pretty good crowd to be hanging with out there. We are really happy with our test and very hopeful we can come back for the race in February.”
Leilani finished seventh overall Sunday with a top speed in the draft of 181.774 mph. She was fourth of the nine women testing that weekend with only Alli Owens, Danica and Milka posting quicker speeds. READ MORE about practice details.
Energy Security, Military Strategic Flexiblity, Rural Economic Development
As we talked with Leilani after the Saturday practice, she shared her dedication to environmental improvement. We discussed Advanced Biofuels USA’s interest in green racing as a forum for developing technologies to make possible energy security, rural economic development, military strategic flexibility and mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change. Most of those seem to be values consistent with the values of NASCAR racers and fans. That said, we’ve seen real action on biofuels, biochemicals and green racing in the American Le Mans Series and Indy Car establishments; but not so much with the NASCAR-related racing organizations.
Leilani hopes to change that building on her promising experiences in the Indy Pro Series (which already uses biofuel and engine technologies that are relevant to consumers), her appearances on Capitol Hill on behalf of climate change issues, her status as a National Wildlife Federation Ambassador and her work promoting cost effective ways to reduce energy consumption.
Although the most out-spoken, Leilani was not the only one in the pits concerned about improving racing’s environmental footprint. By the time the teams were cleaning up and moving out on Sunday evening, it became clear from conversations with other racers and crew that they eagerly anticipated Sunoco and NASCAR making some kind of an announcement about “going green” by the 2011 season.
NASCAR Green Innovation Plans
In 2008, Dr. Mike Lynch was named Managing Director, NASCAR Green Innovation , committed to not only encouraging tracks where NASCAR events take place to increase their recycling, conserve their electricity and water use and generally decrease their carbon footprint; but to also engaged with Sunoco, the official provider of NASCAR fuel, to provide something renewable to power the cars. READ MORE about NASCAR’s “going green” 2008 plans.
Just what has been accomplished since Dr. Lynch arrived to bring NASCAR into the 21st century?
Certainly some operational and fan activities. But will NASCAR really become relevant to automotive innovation and commerce again? Will we see a change from carbureted push rod engines of 25 years ago? Is Sunoco going to enter to world of energy security seeking biofuels?
Green Racing: Testing for a Sustainable Future
We would like to see vehicles showcasing technologies that mean something to the everyday car and truck consumer. We want the races to have meaning again, to show the world what the best drivers can do with the best machines.
The beauty of a race is the art that goes into it. From the designers of the chassis, frames, engines, brakes and other components to the mechanics of getting the pieces to work together to their best abilities, driven by a person who can sense those interrelationships and communicate to the people on the ground what is off balance, what is not working to its greatest potential. Then we watch these creations compete in real time and space to prove who got it right, best.
Yes, there are crashes and failures; some pretty mundane; some quite spectacular. And the teams learn from it all.
We’ll be eagerly watching to see if ARCA and NASCAR learn from recent troubles and take up the challenges of the 2010s. We’ll watch to see if they return to their roots of showing off the coolest cars that you and your neighbors’ money can buy
—and what they can do when they are doing their best.
Let’s go back to “Race on Sunday; Buy on Monday” and learn how to do it with the best interests of Creation in mind.