In a sport known for gas guzzling, big engine stock car racing, NASCAR has taken very aggressive steps to address its own carbon footprint in the world of racing. As the sport enters its fifth year of environmentally sound initiatives, NASCAR is indeed finding it easy to be green.
Just two years ago, NASCAR addressed the fuel emissions issue in the sport head on. They forged a partnership with Sunoco, the official fuel of NASCAR and the American Ethanol industry, using Sunoco Green E15, a renewable fuel grown from corn.
This new fuel, utilized by all three of NASCAR’s top series, emits 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than unleaded gas. On top of that, the new fuel actually helped the performance of the engines, with teams reporting an increase of up to 10+ horsepower.
“There was a significant degree of caution from the start,” Dr. Mike Lynch, managing director for NASCAR’s Green Innovation, said. “We had to take all the risk out through hard work, time and careful analysis.”
“We needed performance without compromise and we’ve ended up with all the good things and no negative trade-offs,” Lynch continued. “We as an industry have made a ton of progress in terms of green practices and initiatives.”
One of NASCAR’s most exciting green initiatives is the new, energy efficient power at many of its race tracks. Headlining the solar power effort is Pocono Raceway, whose solar farm just hit a major milestone, the production of 10,000,000 kilowatt hours.
Pocono Raceway’s solar farm is comprised of 39,960 American-made photovoltaic modules that will ultimately produce over 72 million kilowatt hours of energy over the next 20 years. This will generate enough power to not only light up the track, but also provide electricity to over 300 homes in the area.
“This is another important milestone for Pocono Raceway”, Brandon Igdalsky, President and CEO of Pocono Raceway, said. “Pocono Raceway strongly believes in the commitment to operate in a more environmentally responsible way and is proud to be the first race track to power our sport with clean, renewable sunlight.”
“This project demonstrates real sustainability and proves that any business that truly wants to ‘Go Green’ can do it.”
From solar power to the power of tree planting, NASCAR and its partner the Arbor Day Foundation are helping the sport go green just in time for Arbor Day, Earth Day and National Tree Planting Day.
In the spirit of the trees, one of NASCAR’s corporate sponsor partners, the 3M Company, just announced that they have just committed to fund the planting of 2,350 trees, one for every lap of the Cup and Nationwide Series racing in the month of April.
These trees will also serve a restorative purpose as many are being planted in areas hard hit by hurricanes, such as the northeast after Super Storm Sandy; tornadoes, such as in northern Alabama; and areas damaged by fires, such as in Minnesota and Texas.
Another one of NASCAR’s most intensive green initiatives has been recycling and, from bottles and cans to tires to electronic devices, the sport has been making great headway in reducing its carbon foot print.
Beverage producers and NASCAR sponsors Coca-Cola and Coors Light have teamed up to not only get their bottles and cans into recycling bins but also to educate fans at the track about the benefits of recycling. Freightliner even provides a BlueTec equipped clean-Diesel rig to transport the Coca-Cola Portable Processing Center at track, which processes 1,000 containers per minutes at the various venues.
The official tire supplier of NASCAR, Goodyear, also has a recycling program for all NASCAR stock cars as well as the trucks. After every race weekend, tires are transported to Charlotte, NC and recycled for use in power generation and asphalt mixtures.
Almost 121,000 tires from the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series in NASCAR are recycled by Goodyear every year.
NASCAR also recently announced another tire recycling partnership, this one with Liberty Tire Recycling, now the Official Tire Recycler of NASCAR Green.
“By recycling more than 140 million tires annually, we reclaim nearly 1.5 billion pounds of rubber for innovative, eco-friendly products,” Thomas Carter, Liberty Tire Recycling Vice President of Alternative Fuels, said. “We look forward to enhancing NASCAR Green’s best-in-class recycling program by keeping its discarded tires out of landfills and transforming them into smart, sustainable products that improve people’s lives.”
Liberty Tire Recycling will also provide GroundSmart Mulch™ to enhance the landscaping of trees that are donated to areas of need throughout the country. The benefit of this rubber mulch is that it lasts longer and prevents the soil from washing away.
Finally, Liberty Tire Recycling announced that its products, such as rubberized asphalt, will be used to repave race tracks and parking lots at NASCAR venues across the USA.
“Adding the nation’s premier tire recycling company to our group of Official NASCAR Green Partners will further enhance NASCAR’s position of leadership in sustainability across all sports,” Jim O’Connell, NASCAR Chief Sales Officer, said. “We are pleased to work towards a common goal of reducing the environmental impact of our sport.”
Other recycling efforts include Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc., who ensures that all oil and lubricants used in racing are recaptured and re-used. Safety-Kleen re-purposes more than 200,000 gallons of race-used oil annually and also provide absorbent products used for cleaning up fluid spills inside the NASCAR garages.
Finally, NASCAR’s title sponsor, Sprint, is also a partner in green initiatives with their “Recycle for Victory” program. This wireless recycling effort benefits Victory Junction, one of NASCAR’s important children’s charities.
Sprint is present at every track, in their now famous ‘Sprint Experience’ providing pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes that fans can use to recycle their old cell phones, batteries and other accessories. Since 2001, Sprint has recycled more than 24 million phones, equaling more than 2,600 metric tons of material.
One of the most unique green initiatives, however, occurs at Infineon Raceway. At that race track, there are 3,000 sheep living on the property to maintain the grassy areas and the fire lanes around the facility.
The track also built 15 owl boxes where birds can nest to prey on gophers and other rodents, eliminating the need for pest control.
While NASCAR as a corporate entity may be finding going green positive and exciting, its drivers and team owners are enthusiastic as well.
“I think it’s great that we’re looking in these areas on how to make a difference,” Jimmie Johnson, five-time NASCAR champ, said. “Racing is a great proving ground for new technology that can help the country and world to go green.”
“So, I am excited to see new things coming along and hope there are many more to follow, and really use motorsports as a testing program for that.”
“The nature of our business is one that we use gas and metals, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the environment,” Jack Roush, team owner, said. “We have an obligation to the global community to give back.”