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Woody: Today Ethanol, Tomorrow Hamsters?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 7 2011

The work of pit crews could change dramatically in the future. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

While stranded in Upstate New York recently, watching the snow pile up six feet outside my motel window as the temperature hovered at zero, I had time to ponder the consequences of Global Warming.

I’m glad NASCAR is doing its part to save the polar bears and shaft the oil sheiks by adding ethanol to its racing fuel, but there’s no reason why its going-green movement should stop there.

Here’s some suggestions for additional environmental enhancements:

Solar power: Each car is equipped with rows of solar panels mounted on the top, with cables carrying the energy to the engine. Pit strategy revolves around making adjustments to the angles of the sun-absorbing panels to take advantage of the shifting rays as the race progresses. Record speeds can be expected on bright, sunny afternoons, while lap times will dip on overcast days or through shadowy turns.

Drawback: Night racing and solar eclipses could be a problem.

Wind power: A Dutch-style windmill is welded to the car’s rear deck, harnessing the energy and, like the solar panels, transferring it to the motor. Aerodynamics will continue to be a key factor, especially on the superspeedways of Talladega and Daytona where cars reach gale-force speeds on the backstretch, pushing their twirling windmills to the breaking point. Teams will, naturally, use wind tunnels to test their windmills.

Drawback: The towering windlasses could be vulnerable to flocks of low-fling birds.

Electric power: It’s only a matter of time until passenger models of electric/hybrids make their

Brian France announced last October that NASCAR was going green. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

way into NASCAR. The biggest adjustment will involve the pit crews, who will trade their gas cans for a set of jumper cables. Innovative teams will find ways to extend the life of a charge, and instead of plotting “fuel strategy” they will try late-race “juice gambles.” Instead of gas-and-go, teams will spark-and-scat. In Victory Circle the winner will be sure to thank his electrician.

Drawback: Since it takes an hour to re-charge the battery, a late pit stop could prove costly for the leader.

Hamster power: Little metal wheels are mounted under the hood on which hamsters run, powering the engine. On pit stops the crew will check on its hamsters to make sure they are fresh and lively and have plenty of water and sunflower seeds. The boys back at the shop will work tirelessly to grow bigger, stronger hamsters in quest of more HP (Hamster Power). NASCAR will limit how many hamsters can be used in a race, and any team caught with an illegal rodent will be penalized.

Drawback: If a hamster gets loose during a pit stop and hides under the sofa, it could cost the team valuable track position.

But anything for the polar bears.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 7 2011


  • Big Ed says:

    Woody: Who can I call about applying for the job of left-rear hamster changer for Dale Earnhardt III?

  • RA Eckart says:


    I agree with you about climate change and am prepared for the backlash. This article was meant to be humorous, so I’ll allow a lot of wiggle room.

    And while ethanol is not the ultimate answer, at least NASCAR is sending the message that it knows what the facts are and it cares.

    By the way, I’m a futures trader. This argument about the expense of ethanol vs gasoline is about to be tested. Oil is $88/barrel today. It’ll trade above $100 this summer & retake the $147 high by 2012. And then it’s not ever coming back down.

    Sorry, America, but when the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, you will change.

  • Marybeth says:

    Larry, It was zero outside, perhaps inside also…? :)
    “Wind power: A Dutch-style windmill is welded to the car’s rear deck,” …and they could name it the Don Quixote league, with “To Dream The Impossible Dream” as the theme song. :)
    Personally, I have been thinking that someone needs to come up with a way for cars to run on “waves” like a cellphone. Or…since Nascar is a southeast sport, maybe they should put little coal burners in the cars. Ethanol profits the mid-west more the southeast.
    @Brian, In the ‘70’s the cover story on Newsweek & Time was that the world was going back into an Ice Age. Things fluctuate, like a pendulum swinging back & forth.

  • Andy D says:

    So when it’s warmer, that’s due to global warming. And when it’s colder, that’s due to global warming. Son, I think you’re qualified for a stock analyst job on Wall St. They never put a Sell recommendation on anything.

  • Mike says:

    I’ll be curious to see how the NASCAR leadership scrambles when the government subsidies to ethanol get cut off by the new congress and the excuses that come out of the Ivory Towers on Daytona Beach.

  • Terry says:

    Instead of ECO POWER……NASCAR should be EGO POWERED….
    You talk about power..and ..speed
    That said…this is not new…
    As US Sen. Howard Baker TN said on the floor in the 70’s…..
    ” we have been proudly making alternative fuel for generation in Tennessee…..we’ve just always put in the trunk…”
    As for hammsters….well FIAT does own DODGE…..

  • Brian Stuhr says:

    “While stranded in Upstate New York recently, watching the snow pile up six feet outside my motel window as the temperature hovered at zero, I had time to ponder the consequences of Global Warming.”

    Weather is not climate change! Warmer overall temperature causes more evaporation, meaning more moisture in the air. The result: when it rains, it rains more! If the local temperature is right, it snows more!

    Don’t get me wrong, I like racing and I understand the “humor” with which the article was written, but it only adds to the perception that we have no part in the destruction of the environment in which my kid will have to live. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want him to ask me 20 years from now, “Why didn’t you do anything…something about this when you had the chance?”

    Just sayin’…but still ready to get smacked by the Fox “News” viewers!