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Why Unleaded Fuel and Why Now?

Aug 17, 2007
There is a lot of talk about NASCAR changing from leaded fuel to unleaded. The long term plan was that unleaded fuel was going to be introduced to the Nextel Cup Series in 2008. Why the change in plans?

For those of us who are not engineers, leaded fuel gives more lubrication and "padding" to the engine. This cushions the engines and valves and lessens the chances of the engine burning up. Using average unleaded fuel will kill the engine on a NASCAR racecar.

For several years now NASCAR has been working with their fuel supplier, Sunoco, to develop a special unleaded fuel that will be kinder to the Cup car engines. This is not a new or spur of the moment decision. Because every decision within NASCAR affects so many people, much time and research goes into every change of rules and policies.

The Craftsman Truck Series and the Busch series have been using unleaded fuel for about six months now. The reason NASCAR began with those series is that their races are 300 miles. The Nextel Cup race in California is 500 miles. It's the last 200 miles for the engine that has people concerned.

The first race using unleaded fuel proved that it was indeed an issue with several teams losing their engines during the race. But the interesting thing is that the drivers aren't complaining about the switch like they did with the Car of Tomorrow. They aren't fighting it at all. Maybe they knew it was inevitable. We can only put so much exhaust in the air before we get to the point that the damage is irreversible.

Except for the season opening race at Daytona, unleaded fuel will be used in all of the races during the 2007 season. The possible motivation for the moved up timeline to phase in the unleaded fuel could be pressure.

An environmental activist group has requested that the Environmental Protection Agency investigate lead levels in the air on and around racetracks. This activist group alleges that innocent bystanders, such as homeowners that live near racetracks, are in danger without even realizing it.

NASCAR is trying so hard to shake off the country boy image and adopt a more sophisticated persona. It definitely looks good for them to be concerned with the environment and the health of their fans. But whatever the reason for the expedited introduction to unleaded fuel, NASCAR has done a good thing and once again we are made proud.
About the Author
David Stargel publishes several NASCAR related websites in addition to writing about all sorts of NASCAR related topics.
Check out The NASCAR Circuit
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