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Ethanol industry lays it on thick for unsuspecting NASCAR fans
It’s not just that all National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing races will use E15 that makes last week’s partnership announcement exciting for the ethanol industry. Starting next year, NASCAR fans will see the American Ethanol brand prominently displayed on every racecar and every green flag that signals the start of NASCAR races.

A six-year partnership with NASCAR and American Ethanol was announced Dec. 2 in Las Vegas. A group of nearly 100 different entities, led by Growth Energy, have joined together to promote ethanol through the partnership with NASCAR. Membership is far from complete. “Growth Energy and its partners continue to talk to organizations in ethanol and farming about the opportunity to join American Ethanol and support our industry’s goals with NASCAR,” said Chris Thorne, public affairs director for Growth Energy. “The American Ethanol partnership will benefit every organization involved in domestic ethanol, from the family farms to the major ethanol producers.”

Although Growth Energy facilitated the partnership with NASCAR, membership to American Ethanol is not limited to Growth Energy members. It is, Thorne said, a “partnership with an entire industry.” That’s something new in the sports sponsorship world as sponsorships are typically with individual companies. “Here, we are representing every aspect of the domestic ethanol industry,” he said. There are a few other races that use ethanol. E100 is used for the Iowa Corn Indy 250, the only Indy race to run on corn ethanol. UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, provides E100 for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Iogen Energy Corp., the Canadian cellulosic producer, provides ethanol to Drayson Racing for the American Le Mans series and to Ferrari for the Formula One season.

The difference between those races and NASCAR is the stock cars, Thorne said. NASCAR drivers race in cars that are not that much different from the cars an average person drives. “When it comes down to brass tacks, NASCAR has the biggest fan base of any motor sport in the country,” he said. “So when we say that E15 is good enough for all Americans because it’s clearly good enough for five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, that is going to have enormous reach.”

One of the many partners in American Ethanol is the National Corn Growers Association, which provided funding though the state corn checkoff and membership organizations. “The productivity of America’s farmers is unrivaled in the world and our ability to supply corn for food, livestock feed and fuel should be a source of national pride,” said Bart Schott, NCGA president and a corn grower in Kulm, N.D. “This exciting new association with the NASCAR nation will help to build that awareness.”

NASCAR put ethanol though a rigorous testing process before deciding to switch to E15, said Brandon Hunnicutt, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. Racing teams and engine builders also tested the fuel and found it increased horsepower and reduced emissions by 20 percent per gallon of fuel. “A marketing partnership between American Ethanol and NASCAR following NASCAR’s switch to E15 is clearly a powerful move for the American ethanol industry,” he said. “Together we will tell the story of the most successful renewable fuel in history, the cleanest burning fuel available on a wide scale that is made in America from renewable corn.”

Novozymes is also proud to support American Ethanol. “NASCAR's move to E15 demonstrates a willingness to help reduce greenhouse gases and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Adam Monroe, president, Novozymes North America. “We look forward to a long relationship with NASCAR and Growth Energy to show all Americans the power of biotechnology."

E15 used for NASCAR races will be blended at the Sunoco Inc. facility in Marcus Hook, Pa. Some of the ethanol will come from the 85 MMgy Sunoco ethanol plant in Fulton, N.Y., which Sunoco purchased and restarted in June. The fuel, which is provided to NASCAR teams at no cost, will be pumped directly from tankers at the track.

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