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Ethanol leaders: Indy 500 connection will aid growth
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — “Burns cleaner. Burns rubber.”

For a skeptical audience who believes ethanol cannot perform as well as gasoline, look to the Indy Racing League for proof.

This year marks a major milestone for the ethanol industry as all IRL cars will burn a 10 percent ethanol-blended fuel. Next year they move up to 100 percent ethanol.

“This makes a huge statement on behalf of the quality of the fuel and its performance abilities,” said Paul Dana, driver for the #17 Team Ethanol car owned by Rahal Letterman Racing (RLR). “The best racers in the world and the fastest race cars are out there doing 220 miles an hour on ethanol. It will perform in your minivan.”

All cars in the league are required to use the same fuel, preventing any potential competitive advantage that may be gained by using a specialized fuel. This is the first time that a major racing league has sanctioned the use of ethanol in all cars and all races.

Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), which sponsors Team Ethanol, said it proves that ethanol performs at the highest levels in the most technically-advanced engines in the world.

“In order for consumers to feel comfortable about choosing ethanol, they have to know about the performance that this product provides to them,” Slunecka said, “and our working with the Indy Racing League is vital to getting our performance message out to consumers.”

Any doubts about ethanol’s efficiency were resolved in May 2005 when the Team Ethanol car was fueled with an ethanol blend. Driver Jimmy Kite rocketed to 220 mph in a 10-lap demonstration.

Ethanol has many similarities to the IRL’s current fuel, methanol. Both have the high octane required for smooth, powerful combustion in an Indy car’s high-compression engine.

But methane is extremely toxic, and spills must be cleaned up quickly and carefully to avoid contaminating groundwater. Ethanol, however, is nontoxic and biodegradable.

Race fans won’t be disappointed with the change, said Phil Casey, senior technical director for the IndyCar Series.

“Our cars won’t sound differently, smell differently or run differently than they have in the past,” he said. “There will be a seamless transition from methanol to ethanol.”

RLR, co-owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal and Indianapolis native and television personality David Letterman, added Dana to their team in January.

Dana made his IRL IndyCar Series debut in 2005, driving the Team Ethanol car entry in the 17-race season. His first Indy 500 was cut short by an injury during practice.

Dana’s teammates with RLR are Buddy Rice, 2004 Indy 500 winner, and Danica Patrick, 2005 Rookie of the Year.

Team Ethanol, the primary sponsor of RLR, is funded by the Broin Companies, Fagen Inc., ICM and 25 other companies working together in a voluntary industry-wide coalition that represents over half of the industry.

Slunecka said, “The fact that the IndyCar Series, with their history of automotive innovation, see the performance benefits of ethanol should encourage all mechanics and car enthusiasts to feel confident in using ethanol-enriched fuels in their cars.”

EPIC is a nonprofit organization representing an alliance of ethanol producers and industry leaders who spread the word about the benefits of ethanol through informational and promotional programs. For more information, visit

IndyCar facts
•The G-forces an Indy car driver endures through a turn in a race are equal to nearly four times the weight of gravity. This force is comparable to having a 40- to 50-pound weight attached to your head.
•The front tires of an Indy car going 220 mph rotate 43 times per second.
•An Indy car accelerates from 0 to 100 mph in less than three seconds.
•The front tire of an Indy car weighs 18 pounds.
•An Indy car driver’s heart rate reaches between 150 and 200 beats per minute during a race.
•In the course of a race, an Indy car driver’s body temperature can reach up to 103 degrees F.
•At top speeds the tread of an Indy car tire reaches approximately 212 degrees F.

This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.