Ignite the Racetrack

USAC selects branded ethanol as official racing fuel
By Holly Jessen | August 15, 2011

Mario Clouser, who owns and races midget racecars with Mario Clouser Motorsports, is pretty excited about the fact that Ignite Racing Fuels is now the official racing fuel of the United States Auto Club. The open-wheel racing sanctioning body will switch from methanol, a fuel with higher emissions than ethanol. “The stuff is pretty toxic,” he tells EPM. “You really can’t breathe the exhaust by any means. It will make your eyes water and your nose run. It’s some pretty nasty stuff.”

USAC and National Biofuels Distribution, in association with ICM Inc., announced the three-year sponsorship deal July 28. NBD produces Ignite High Performance Ethanol racing fuels with octane ratings of 108 and 114. The company also markets E98 to companies and supplies E30 and E85 for municipal, county and state flex-fuel vehicles. “We are excited to take this direction toward environment-friendly fuel usage,” says USAC President and CEO Kevin Miller.

Though significant, making the racing environment easier to work in isn’t the biggest advantage to using Ignite ethanol fuel on the racetrack. The No. 1 advantage is better fuel mileage, Clouser says. Methanol produces less heat per gallon, meaning more must be burned to produce the same amount of energy. “With Ignite you can burn less fuel, make the same amount of energy, therefore you don’t have to use as much of it,” he says.

Besides better mileage, another benefit for racecars is that carrying around less fuel translates into better handling. It also means smaller changes in the weight of the fuel during the race. “So the car balance stays a lot more neutral throughout the race rather than changing dramatically from the beginning to the end,” he says. USAC’s testing of the fuel showed a 40 percent reduction in consumption compared to methanol. The sanctioning body for Mopar Midget National Championship, Sprint Car Series and Silver Crown Series tested Ignite fuel through Technical Services Inc. and Engler Machine & Tool.

In the meantime, Clouser periodically tested the fuel on the racetrack this past year. He’s excited USAC finally approved Ignite, something he’s been asking the sanctioning body to do. “We’ve been wanting to run ethanol for a while,” he says. “I’m anxious to see how the racing is next year and how everyone reacts to the fuel.”

By using ethanol as a race fuel, USAC follows in the footsteps of other race-sanctioning bodies. The difference is, this three-year partnership will mean much larger amounts of fuel will be used on racetracks across the nation, says Jay Berry, co-founder and vice president of NBD. NASCAR, which started using E15 this racing season, will use about 75,000 gallons of ethanol per year. IndyCar, which currently runs on E100 but plans to debut an E85 car in 2012, uses about 170,000 gallons of ethanol, according to figures provided by Berry. In contrast USAC will use 2 to 3 million gallons of ethanol in a year, Berry tells EPM. 

—Holly Jessen