NASCAR hires Lynch for Green initiative
For the first time, a green car will pace the field to the green flag at the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. The high-profile laps by a Ford Fusion Hybrid showing off a next-generation hybrid system at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' championship race is one more signpost toward a greener future for the sport.
As NASCAR develops an industry-wide initiative to address the environment, the sanctioning body has taken an even bigger step in hiring Dr. Mike Lynch to head up a new Green initiative.
"Mike will be developing and coordinating an industry strategy to ensure we are embracing green as an opportunity for all of us," said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France. "He'll be working with teams, tracks, and our partners to develop and environmental plan that's right for the sport and all its partners, one that can include and mobilize our fan base in this important issue."
Mike Lynch, whose title is Managing Director, NASCAR Green Innovation, discusses his new role and plans for helping the industry "go green."
Q. What is your vision for making the NASCAR industry green?
Lynch: My first priority is to meet with the key people in the industry to review and enhance the positive steps that are already being taken. Then we'll get a better understanding of the areas where we need to change the system. The next step will be to execute a comprehensive green initiative that relies on innovation and change.
Q. What relevant experience do you bring to this job?
Lynch: I have nearly 20 years of experience in strategic planning and working with major companies on breakthrough technologies. A major part of my role will be to identify opportunities and to build a comprehensive plan to find environmental efficiencies that will benefit the entire industry. I'll be looking to take steps to make the industry more efficient and greener. We'll look at what the tracks are doing, we'll review our transportation system and what more can be done on race weekends.
Q. Where do you expect the green initiative to be in a year?
Lynch: A year from now I hope the industry is working together even more closely. There are a lot of very good initiatives already underway that we can enhance with better coordination. We'll also have some innovative ideas that we'll be launching. And we'll continue our efforts to educate fans about the importance of conservation and how they can get involved.
Q. What are some of the notable initiatives you mentioned?
Lynch: There are two major buildings being built right now, the 20-story NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte led by NASCAR, and "Daytona Speedplex," a new facility in Daytona led by ISC which will be the new headquarters for ISC, NASCAR and Grand American Racing. Both buildings will qualify for LEED certification, an important and relatively rare distinction making them "Green buildings."
The tracks have very effective recycling programs. For example, Daytona International Speedway recycled nearly 12,000 total pounds of aluminum and plastic during Speedweeks. At the track, Coca-Cola has done a great job educating fans on the benefits of recycling and encouraging them to drop containers in designated bins at the facilities.
Michigan International Speedway purchased a tree farm and planted trees around the wetland boundaries to identify and better protect these areas on its 1,400-acre property. Protected wetlands total nearly 200 acres in and around the facility.
Auto Club Speedway in Southern California hosts several recycling events annually such as an annual mower-recycling day when people return their gas-powered mowers. The track is also used as a base for residents to trade in older toilets for new, low-flo environmentally friendly ones and drop-off for proper disposal old televisions and computer monitors.
Infineon Raceway in Sonoma is using waterless toilets, which is very innovative.
Q. What about other efforts from NASCAR partners?
Lynch: NASCAR partners such as Goodyear, Safety Kleen and Waste Management -- leaders in their respective industries and environmental ambassadors in their own right -- are setting benchmarks for dedication to keeping NASCAR green.
Goodyear, the official tire of NASCAR, recycles just about all the tires used on NASCAR stock cars. Tires are transported to Charlotte, NC and immediately shredded on site, which eliminates risks of fires and mosquito breeding. The recycled material is sold to various industries including power generating plants and cement kilns. It's also used as composite material for playgrounds, and for asphalt mixtures.
Safety Kleen Systems, Inc. is a valued partner of NASCAR and the entire industry.. The company provides oil recycling and re-refining services to more than 200 NASCAR-sanctioned races a year, collecting and re-refining 170,000 gallons of NASCAR oil annually. Safety Kleen's services include oil collection and re-refining, as well as the management and proper disposal of spent brake fluids, oil filters, coolant, and cleaning solvents. Beyond NASCAR, Safety Kleen is the world's largest collector and recycler of used oil and lubricants. They collect and refine 200 million gallons of oil a year.
Waste Management is a name familiar to many fans from its green paint schemes on race cars over the years. Waste Management is the nation's largest recycler, and one of the NASCAR industry's key partners in protecting the environment. The company provides exclusive waste and recycling services to all tracks holding NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races.
Q: Will you be working with Sunoco to come up with an alternative fuel?
Lynch: It is one of the long-term initiatives that is very important to us. As Brian France has said, we'll be working with Sunoco to step up our efforts, making sure we're doing everything we can to look at alternative fuel options. That solution may be well down the road, but it's very important.
Q: With all the focus on our current fuel crisis, why isn't the fuel solution the primary objective to the Green Initiative?
Lynch: That's a good question. There are two important parts to the answer. First, the world's scientists have not yet identified a viable alternative solution, and there are a number of untested options out there that might be viable. The second part of the answer is that fuel is just one piece of a very large and complex puzzle in our industry.
The fuel used in NASCAR competition is relatively insignificant. Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, a physicist at the University of Houston, recently calculated that the amount of gasoline consumed over the entire average NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend is equivalent to the amount of fuel our country uses in two seconds.
Fuel is certainly an important symbol, but we can have a much greater impact on protecting the environment by initiating a comprehensive industry-wide strategy in how we operate overall.
Q: What else is NASCAR doing in the environmental area?
Lynch: We are taking a leadership position in promoting car care conservation and fuel-saving messages. NASCAR's fan base consists of tens of million of car-enthusiasts and this initiative is having a meaningful impact.
One exciting development is a new alliance between NASCAR and the EPA to promote SmartWay vehicles at NASCAR events from all of the sport's vehicle manufacturer partners. SmartWay is an EPA-branded designation for fuel-efficient cars. We've now had SmartWay displays at several tracks this year, showing tens of thousands of fans the highly-efficient, high quality, attractive vehicles from our manufacturer partners.
NASCAR also partners with AAIA (Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association) in the "Be Car Care Aware" program, which encourages motorists to take care of their vehicles, reduce emissions, improve gas mileage and increase safety. Since 2004, NASCAR has committed more than $50 million in advertising and promoting "Be Car Care Aware."
There's a lot of meaningful activity in the green space, and we're just getting started.