- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

With the Indianapolis 500 coming up on Sunday, a couple of U.S. Senators have written a letter to NASCAR CEO Brian France, urging him to follow the Indy Racing League in switching to ethanol fuel.

Evan Bayh (D-IN) and John Thune (R-SD) said NASCAR can play a role in reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

“We believe that respected American traditions, such as NASCAR and the Indy Racing League, have a responsibility to lead by example and help cut our ties to foreign sources of oil and embrace alternative renewable resources that are produced here at home,” the senators wrote. “To this end, we ask that NASCAR consider converting its race car fleet to run on 100 percent American-produced ethanol, as well as start a long-term commitment to promote clean, renewable homegrown fuels.”

NASCAR, which already received a similar letter from General Motors, has resisted a move to ethanol at this point, citing a variety of safety concerns and the fact that the league just switched from leaded to unleaded gasoline this year. It seems unlikely Congress can force NASCAR to do anything, but members have shown some influence in the area of sports in the past (i.e. steroids in baseball.) These two particular Senators reside in the heart of ethanol country, and their constituents would likely benefit from any boost in ethanol production.

The move to alternative fuels isn’t going to happen overnight, but this weekend’s Indy 500 may bring more attention to the issue than any previous event. NASCAR, which is considerably more popular than IRL, could actually change hearts and minds with a similar switch.

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