Going full throttle with ethanol

E15 is a great fuel for Richard Childress Racing and for the entire NASCAR community, writes the former driver and team owner of RCR. This column appears in the March EPM.
By Richard Childress | February 12, 2016

Ethanol takes the spotlight in two high-octane events in late February in Florida.  NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500 is Feb. 26 and the seventh annual Growth Energy Executive Leadership Conference is Feb. 20-23. As a former driver, the team owner of Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and a believer in the importance of homegrown renewable fuels, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see these two events align. This year’s conference theme is Full Throttle and I believe that it’s as important to go full throttle in the real world as it is on the race track.

At RCR, we are proud to partner with this American-grown, American-made industry for many reasons. Biofuels, like ethanol, keep money we would normally send abroad for oil in the U.S., creating jobs and economic activity here at home instead of overseas. We have a unique platform to share this message with race fans and to demonstrate that E15 is a reliable, high performance fuel that can withstand the toughest driving conditions. Nationwide, moving to E15 will create another 136,000 American jobs that can’t be outsourced, reduce our demand for foreign oil by 7 billion gallons and reduce greenhouse gas emissions relative to regular gasoline, all while saving consumers between 5 and 15 cents per gallon at the pump. From RCR’s perspective, we should be doing things that help drivers adopt biofuels and encourage companies to produce advanced and cellulosic biofuels.

Of course, we didn’t become successful by not paying attention to the performance details of our race cars. In 2011, NASCAR switched to a 15 percent ethanol fuel blend, Sunoco Green E15. After several tests done by our engineers at ECR Engines, we have seen increased horsepower from the higher-octane ethanol fuel blend, decreased emissions and an overall cooler running engine. RCR and ECR Engines have even tested ethanol blends up to E30, finding no issues. These are areas our team of talented engineers and mechanics are really excited about.

The final formulation of Sunoco Green E15 was the result of extensive analysis by Sunoco scientists and the support of over 100 members of the technical areas of the NASCAR Research and Development Center, nearly all of the race teams, their engine shops and the extended NASCAR green team. After over a year and a half of work on the lab bench, the engine dynamometer and in thousands of miles of live on-track endurance testing of a range of fuel blend levels from substantially below to substantially greater than 15 percent ethanol, Sunoco Green E15 was selected. E15 provided the optimal synergy of high performance as reflected by roughly 10 additional horsepower on average over the prior fuel, and 100 percent reliability on the track.

E15 is a great fuel for RCR and for the entire NASCAR community. Now in its sixth season of use, the fuel has been used in over 8 million miles of racing with zero reported engine problems or increased maintenance issues. As a lifelong fan of the sport, I am certain that the switch to a higher blend of ethanol has been a great move by NASCAR. The transition has been seamless; we’re proud of our connection to the ethanol industry and all of the good that it’s doing for our country. I hope the attendees of the Growth Energy Executive Leadership Conference enjoy the Daytona 500 and are inspired to go full throttle in 2016. With the right energy, strategy and momentum, I believe that the ethanol industry will finish in victory lane.
Author: Richard Childress
Chairman and CEO,
Richard Childress Racing
[email protected]