NASCAR fuel to be unleaded

Friday, January 20th 2006, 8:53 am
By: News On 6

NASCAR, the last bastion in American motorsports for leaded gasoline, will convert to unleaded fuel in its Nextel Cup, Busch and Truck series by the start of the 2008 season.

The decision, announced Friday, comes as questions began to build again about why NASCAR hasn't already made the transition that began with passenger cars after passage of the Clear Air Act in 1970.

"We still have some more testing to do, because we want to be careful that there are no unintended consequences," said Gary Nelson, NASCAR vice president for research and development. "But we have tested a current engine using unleaded fuel and all of the indications are good."

Nelson said NASCAR has been looking for an unleaded alternative since the 1990s. One formula was used in some Busch races at one point, but it included an additive known as MTBE that has drawn environmental scrutiny of its own.

Sunoco, the exclusive fuel supplier for NASCAR, developed the formula called 260 GTX and it was used in the Grand American road-racing series beginning last fall. NASCAR also began testing the fuel late last year at its research center in Concord.

NASCAR engines are antiques, using carburetors that allow fuel to flow into engines instead of fuel injectors, which put fuel in under pressure and are used in virtually all of today's street cars. But Nelson said the conversion to unleaded fuel does not signal a switch from carburetors in NASCAR engines.


George Pyne will leave his job as NASCAR's chief operating officer to become president of IMG, one of the world's most prominent sports management and marketing firms, the Observer learned Friday night.

Pyne was named COO and appointed to NASCAR's board of directors in December 2002, capping his rise through the ranks after joining the company in 1995.

He began his NASCAR career working in NASCAR's Charlotte office overseeing its licensing and marketing program and was named head of the licensing division in 1996.

In 2005, Pyne was No. 15 on the Observer's annual list of the 25 most powerful people in NASCAR.

Michael Waltrip took out a racing insurance policy on Friday, ensuring starting spots in the first five Nextel Cup races of the upcoming season for his No. 55 Dodges by forming Waltrip-Jasper Racing.

ChampCar Series star Paul Tracy, who has flirted with stock-car racing for the past several seasons, has a deal to run in five NASCAR Busch Series race this year.

Tracy is scheduled to drive the No. 34 Chevrolet for Frank Cicci Racing with Jim Kelly in the season's first Busch race at Daytona on Feb. 18. He'll also enter at Mexico City on March 5, Las Vegas on March 11, Indianapolis Raceway Park on Aug. 5 and California on Sept. 2.