King of the Corn drag racing highlighs ethanol

Ethanol Nationals shines a spotlight on high ethanol blends in inaugural street car race. This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Ann Bailey | August 12, 2016

Larry Larson made history this summer when he won the Ethanol Nationals, the first street car drag race using high ethanol blends. The world-renowned street car racer and owner of Larson Race Cars from Oak Grove, Missouri, won a $24,000 purse for his first-place finish in the King of the Corn Outlaw class at the Ethanol Nationals drag-strip event held July 29-30 at Kearney (Nebraska) Raceway Park.

The inaugural event is a big milestone for ethanol, says Dan Schwartzkopf, Ignite Racing Fuel technical director and one of the of the Ethanol National’s organizers “It’s huge. It’s a big to-do. No other venue in the country has done this. These are street cars, so that’s what makes it unique,” he says.

Larson, who used E98 ethanol to fuel his pick-up, had never used ethanol in his vehicle until the afternoon before the race, Schwartzkopf says. The week before the race, he coached Larson over the phone about how to tune up his pick-up, but Larson didn’t put any of the biofuel in the vehicle until after he arrived at the raceway. All of the Ethanol National racers—about 80 in all—were running a minimum of 50 percent ethanol in their vehicles and most were using E85 or above, Schwartkopf says.

The rules for the race were that vehicles must run on a blend of 51 to 98 percent ethanol, says Jay Berry, Ignite Racing Fuel vice president. Ignite Racing Fuel was the first to develop an ethanol-based racing fuel.  Berry founded Ignite Racing Fuel because eight years ago he noticed that there was a need for high-performance E85.

“Due to the inconsistencies in the fuel, I created Ignite. I did a lot of research, did a lot of testing. The ethanol industry has really backed me. In our earlier years when we first got started, ICM and Urban Air Initiative gave us the first chance. We worked together and sponsored the Torque Series in USAC [United States Auto Club] so they really kind of spring-boarded us to get where we are today,” Berry says.

Berry, also the founder of Central Indiana Ethanol, has worked over the years with people at Kearney Raceway Park and when they heard he wanted to hold an ethanol race, they invited him to have it at their facility, Berry says. The state’s ethanol plants, ICM, Urban Air and American Ethanol helped to sponsor the event.

“This really proves to the people and shows the people you can run higher to midlevel blends and not be affected and it works very, very well,” Schwartzkopf says. “What’s significant to the industry, it’s proving to the industry that these cars are capable of running higher to midlevel blends so E15 and above is not something our general public needs to be afraid of.”

The street cars racing included Corvettes, Vipers, Toyotas and Nissans, he says. Larson won with a Chevrolet S-10 pick-up truck.

The Ethanol Nationals drew a big crowd, Schwartkopf says. “The stands were full. [There were] people standing on the fence.”

The ethanol race will spread a positive message about the biofuel, Berry says. “We’re having a major impact on the world and the high-performance world. Because of what I’m doing, it’s opening the doors to other countries that are trying to learn more about ethanol. I work with Norway, Sweden, Dubai, eight islands down in the Caribbean, Germany. These are just a few of them that are all buying ethanol made here in the United States.

“What we do over here they replicate over there.”

Author: Ann Bailey
Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine