Mechanics Corner: If It’s Good Enough for NASCAR

We thought for a while that winter would never end. But as warmer weather finally arrived and the long winter faded into memory, our thoughts turned to the summer activities ahead.

For the Motor Medics, summer means performance — NASCAR, IndyCar, sprint cars, motorcycle racing, and off-road adventures. All these take fuel, and that means, for us, fuel equals fun.

As NASCAR kicked off in February, we were watching the Daytona 500, and a discussion started about fuel. Someone posed the question, “How much fuel do you think they use in a race?” Right there, in the middle of lap 20, we all pulled out our phones to find out.

The answer varies, but it can be around 5,000 gallons per race across all the cars. That’s a lot of fuel, but a race like Daytona is 500 miles, with cars averaging between four to five miles per gallon. As we were looking, we also checked out the fuel stats. We know that NASCAR has been using Sunoco Green E15 for a while. Indy has used E85 and will be switching to 100% renewable bioethanol fuel.

Now NASCAR isn’t using your average pump blend E15 that we all fill up with on the day-to-day. It’s 98 octane compared to the 88 that you and I get at the pump, and every point of that octane counts towards more performance and fuel mileage. Sunoco Ethanol Racing fuel also has a green tint to it.

For professional racing leagues, it’s all about the octane. A higher octane rating means increased performance. The racecars run a 12:1 compression ratio, so running a lower-octane fuel would detonate and destroy the engines. Another key benefit of using E15 is fuel savings. Bioethanol is lower in cost, and at 5,000 gallons a race, every bit saved helps.

In the shop, we’re seeing more vehicles in general that either require premium octane fuel or recommend it. Required means you must use it to protect the engine from detonation, and recommended means it will likely perform much better using the premium blend. We see cars that recommend premium fuel getting much better mileage with high octane, as they self-adjust things like timing and fuel curve based on fuel type. You could use premium straight gasoline, or you could use higher-octane bioethanol fuel and save money.

My co-host Shannon and I both have a performance Camaro and a turbocharged four-cylinder Solstice street performance car in our fleets, and they both benefit from using E30 (30% bioethanol). When we fuel these cars, we are saving over $1.00 a gallon on average, and that adds up quickly. In our other cars, we use E15 to save money and keep the performance.

NASCAR and IndyCar would not use biofuel blends in engines that cost upwards of $125,000 if they were afraid of damage. So, it’s safe to say that if bioethanol is good enough for the pros, it’s certainly good enough for your daily driver!

The Motor Medics. Under The Hood can be found on a station near you or your favorite podcast site.




Vital is a news & media resource published by POET, presenting a variety of stories with the thought leadership one expects from the largest, most forward-thinking bioethanol producer.