Irwindale Speedway becomes official Ford "Th!nk" track

Irwindale Speedway "Electrifies" its track personnel units -- eight new Ford "Th!Nk" vehicles roll into duty for 2003 season. Irwindale, Calif. - - Irwindale Speedway and Dragstrip have just taken delivery of eight brand new Ford Motor Company...

Irwindale Speedway "Electrifies" its track personnel units -- eight new Ford "Th!Nk" vehicles roll into duty for 2003 season.

Irwindale, Calif. - - Irwindale Speedway and Dragstrip have just taken delivery of eight brand new Ford Motor Company "Th!nk"* zero emission electric vehicles for staff, executive, security, and VIP use in getting around the sprawling 63-acre San Gabriel Valley motorsports complex. With twin NASCAR oval tracks (1/2-mile and 1/3-mile), an NHRA 1/8-mile Street Legal Dragstrip, and huge parking lots that serve as all sorts of automotive "playgrounds" - from car club slalom/time trials, motorcycle schools and new car introductions, to tire tests and go-kart racing - there'll be plenty of opportunities to put these new breed people-transporters to use.

That's not to mention that, on any day of the week, there could be a feature film crew, TV show, or commercial product shoot somewhere on the far-flung premises. Add to the paid use of the property there's the CHP, LA County Sheriff, LA County Fire Department, and numerous other public safety agencies who use the track's extensive parking lots to test, train, and drill new recruits as well as honing hard-won skills sharp among the ranks of their veterans.

There's plenty going on every day at the Speedway and, on days with multiple events, shoe leather just does not cut it for staff people trying to keep all the track and parking lot users happy, safe, and out of each other's way.

And, that's where the Ford Th!nk vehicles will make their mark at Irwindale, these easy-on-the-environment 2 and 4-passenger machines will get Speedway personnel where they need to go, quickly, quietly and without one once of harmful emissions. "We expect to use these vehicles for many around the track trips where we use our regular automobiles and pickups now," said Bob DeFazio, the track's general manger. "Why fire up one of our big Ford F-150s just to go out to the Dragstrip control tower or back to the Track Operation office at the oval? The Th!nk Vehicle is quicker, cleaner, and frankly, more fun to drive. We can get our jobs done much faster with less hassle and we feel that we're showing some respect for the environment while we're doing it -- Its win-win all the way."

Ford's Th!nk vehicles will replace the three gasoline-powered golf carts that Irwindale has used for around-track transportation for the past four years. "The new vehicles are about a third larger and, in the case of the 4-passenger models, everyone rides facing forward unlike our old golf carts where the rear seats faced backward and those riders rode more like luggage," said DeFazio.

With a strong aluminum frame, three-point seat belts, headlights, tail lights, turn indicators, impact-absorbing bumpers, bucket seats, rear cupholders (in the 4-place models), full windshield (with washer/wiper), wide 21X7 alloy wheels sporting even wider 21x8.5 rubber, and smart rust-resistant aluminum-clad exterior, these machines are fully capable of operating on city thoroughfares even though these particular Th!nks will never see street duty.

The vehicle's 72-volt battery system is rechargeable from normal "house current" (115 volts AC) by simply plugging the unit in at the end of its use. All charging equipment is built in to the Th!nk and recharging requires no special handling. A complete recharge will take from 4-8 hours and an overnight recharge is expected to cover any full day use of the machines with many days of standby power when idle. Of interest to the technically-minded is the fact the vehicle is equipped with "regenerative braking"; meaning that, whenever the brakes are applied, some of that energy is recycled back into the batteries to give added range to the vehicle.

"We're a Ford track all the way now," DeFazio enthused. "Fans and competitors are going to see a lot of these totally emission-free vehicles in use at the Speedway and Dragstrip in this our fifth year of operation and for years to come. We have to thank the Ford Motor Company and our local partner Advantage Ford Lincoln-Mercury for loaning us these truly remarkable small vehicles, everyone here could not be more pleased."

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Series Automotive , General