NASCAR News Conference Transcript On Sunoco Green E15 With Brian France, Robin Pemberton and Bob Owens October 16, 2010 An interview with: BRIAN FRANCE - NASCAR Chairman, CEO ROBIN PEMBERTON - VP Competition BOB OWENS - Senior VP Sunoco THE ...
NASCAR News Conference Transcript On Sunoco Green E15 With Brian France,
Robin Pemberton and Bob Owens
October 16, 2010
An interview with:
BRIAN FRANCE - NASCAR Chairman, CEO
ROBIN PEMBERTON - VP Competition
BOB OWENS - Senior VP Sunoco
THE MODERATOR: Beautiful day here at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We appreciate everyone being out here. It's going to be a great race here tonight, we certainly do believe. At this time, I'd like to introduce our Chairman and CEO of NASCAR.
BRIAN FRANCE: Good afternoon, everybody. Today we're going to make what we know is a significant announcement. A couple years ago, we laid out a long-range, what we hoped would be a smart, environmentally-friendly approach in all areas of the industry of NASCAR.
Given that we have, one, mutual partners in the car manufacturer side of things, lots of partners, and most importantly, our fans that want to continue to see this sport evolve, be smart in every area when it comes to the environment and when it comes to things they care about.
Today, we're going to announce that beginning in 2011, we will adopt a new fuel, Sunoco Green E15, an ethanol blend, with the ethanol from the midwest and other parts of the country, domestic ethanol for sure.
What we know is from the testing, and Robin will tell you more in a little bit, that the fuel that we've chosen and the fuel that was ultimately developed by Sunoco is going to be cleaner burning. It's going to be actually, from a performance standpoint, we're actually going to be better. I'm told the drivers will have a little more horsepower and so on.
But more importantly, is we take another step today. We take another step we're already the largest recycler in sports. This is the most visible thing that we can do to let our partners and our fans know that NASCAR is taking a slow, steady march as an industry. The tracks have been incredible partners in this endeavor.
But everywhere you turn, we're going to do a very smart strategy over time. Today accomplishes that. I've got a short video, and then I'm going to bring a couple other gentlemen up, and we'll have some question-and-answers.
THE MODERATOR: At this time, I'd like for Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition, and Bob Owens, Senior Vice President of Sunoco to join Brian at the podium, if they would, please. At this time we are open for Q & A about today's announcement.
Q: Brian, does this phase in begin with Daytona next year or later in the year? What is the time line on this?
BRIAN FRANCE: The time line, the goal is Daytona. We have been testing for a while, for several months with different teams. And we're liking the performance aspect of what we're finding, too. Not to mention, obviously, all of the environmental benefits.
That's a tribute to Sunoco putting the right -- let me just say. There is some pretty big complications and difficulties to get the mixture just right, the formula just right for our style of racing and our demands that are out there for 500 miles or 600 miles if you're here in May. So we're very pleased so far with how the testing looked for 2011.
Q: How much more testing needs to be done? And at the tracks, are you going to now be able to use any of the underground tanks or is everything going to have to be brought in?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The testing has been going on at the track at test facilities. Teams have been able to run it at a few tire tests so far this year with great results. All drivers like more power, so they have smiles on their faces for that. We're pleased with everything. The work will continue.
As far as the at-track, the facilities themselves will be better suited to keep these small batches of fuel. We'll bring them in in tankers. Bob can probably answer more to that. But we'll pump them out of tankers. They'll be above ground.
As you know, many of the tanks at the facilities are used quite a bit for track vehicles and things like that. So this being our purpose built fuel for our race cars, it's better off kept in small quantities and tankers on property.
Q: Your green initiative didn't just start this year. When you were recently in the last few years changing fuel partners, did you, when you were looking, did you look for someone who had the potential to do this down the road?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we did take that into consideration. There is no question about that. That made Sunoco a pretty viable choice.
Not only were they making racing fuels all over the world, but they have the capabilities already doing this for consumers and for our fans, anyway. But definitely know that from a technology standpoint, to get the fuel, this combination correct, takes a fair amount of know how and we're very fortunate to have Sunoco's expertise and background to be able to pull it off.
Q: It was only just a couple years ago we were still running leaded fuel. So this has been a very quick substantial decision to change in a hurry. Who in the company was really the spearhead that made the decision that this had to happen now, so fast?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I certainly -- when we said we had to accelerate our green efforts, this was a center piece. It's certainly the most visible thing we can do. It's also one of the more difficult things that we do.
So I certainly have put us on a fast, but hopefully prudent track, too. We're talking about a lot of things that we do, everything that we do. It isn't just about a green building that we're going to open a new office tower or something to that effect, you expect us to do our part in that area.
Things that touch the rest of the industry, this being a primary example of team owners, and engine owners, and everybody that is affected, certainly our fuel supplier. We're taking all of that into consideration. We can't make mistakes in this area. This has to be a smooth transition. We're pretty confident that it will be just that.
Q: Do you know about the miles per gallon, is this going to impact that much? And there was a study done what the study called alarmingly high decibel levels associated with NASCAR racing, are you concerned that you might have to address that in the future also?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: The mileage, if there's any change whatsoever, I don't think that you'll notice it, remember, it's just 15percent blend. All of our feedback has been positive. The horsepower's been great, reliability's been good.
We've had several hundred miles runs at racetracks, and everything looks to be great as far as performance goes. Probably better than we had first anticipated.
The mileage, it will be seamless. You won't even know if there's a difference. I think after our experts, meaning in the garage area, they get ahold of it, they'll take that opportunity and more than likely make gains with it.
BOB OWENS: And the decibel rating is negligible, I think.
BRIAN FRANCE: Decibel reading is something we do monitor periodically through the year, and if there's any big changes, obviously, we would address them.
Q: Bob, the EPA announced this week that they're allowing, they will now allow the use of 50% alcohol mix in the gasoline we're using in our automobiles as well. Could you address any unique concerns you have about going to this amount of a blend, and did it work alongside the program of blending your Sunoco fuel to 15% as well?
BOB OWENS: I would start with this. Our view is that bio fuels will become an increasing portion of the mix for transportation fuels going forward.
We voted with our feet. We purchased an ethanol manufacturing facility in Fulton, New York, which we got up and running the second quarter of this year. This initiative with NASCAR appeals to all of the things that brought us into this sport to begin with, which gives us an opportunity to showcase our fuels and the attention to detail we put into manufacturing our products, not only for racing, but for the consuming public.
The recent decision on 15percent was purely coincidental. I think this mix is right for NASCAR. This is a controlled racing environment. We've had a lot of discussions with NASCAR about what the proper mix was. I think NASCAR came to a sound decision here.
I think it's really positive step for the sport. I think retail is a different issue, which we'll work our way through as things evolve.
Q: Is the goal ultimately to maybe an inch crease the percentage of ethanol involved in the fuel? Also, some other series run ethanol, is any of the technology that they've learned helped you in this decision?
BRIAN FRANCE: I think our view is one step at a time. We're comfortable with, obviously, with 15. Every division is different. Certainly the structured differently. So it's really one step at a time. We'll go from there.
Q: Could you give us a sense of what the horsepower number is that teams are seeing? What sort of improvement it is, maybe percentage or a number? Could you compare this to the switch to unleaded fuel? It is this maybe an easier switch for teams to manage in terms of the engine, architecture and all that stuff?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: I think it's too early to quote horsepower numbers, but across the board it's been up. Quite frankly it's been a positive for the teams.
The switch to unleaded from leaded, there was a lot of work that went into that from the team side. It might have been, I think when you look at it, it might have been easier for Sunoco at that time, but harder on the teams.
And this particular situation, the teams say it will be a seamless change. You know, they put the fuel in, they made a few minor changes, and it was seamless.
I think Sunoco is the one this time. They'll have a little more work with logistics and things of that nature, but for the competition side, it's a win-win.
BRIAN FRANCE: They'll have a lot more work.
BOB OWENS: I think that's fair.
Q: What's next in regards to the NASCAR green initiative. I'm sure it doesn't end today. You've done a lot with recycling and now this. What do you move forward to now?
BRIAN FRANCE: What's next?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Geez, there's always something.
BOB OWENS: Let us catch our breath a little bit.
BRIAN FRANCE: Thanks for giving us a lot of credit on our energy level to move things forward. No, there will be a lot of things that unfold. As I said, this is one of these areas that involves the whole industry. It's not about NASCAR just making some mandates. It's about working with all of the sponsors or track operators for sure, team owners.
The real reality of it is we're getting an enormous amount of cooperation. This is not a hard sell for us at all. Most of the companies, you know the car manufacturers are very zeroed in on technology and efficiency and carbon emissions and new fuel opportunities and fuel sources.
So everywhere you turn, the companies that are doing business with us and our fans sort of expect us to take good, smart steps to do what we can as an industry to protect the environment and be smarter about how we go about our business. We're proud of that. We're proud of the path that we're on.
Q: Can you tell me how much cleaner this will make this fuel make a difference on a race weekend? And for Brian, can you give us any updates on any potential changes for the Chase?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Geez, I sure can't quantify that, no.
BRIAN FRANCE: Yeah. Today's not a day on the Chase. But we're going to zero in on this topic today.
Q: Seemed a couple years ago you were a little hesitant or you said something like you weren't sure what path of alternative fuel you wanted to go. Why is this blend, and why this now?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, I think it's the one that this country has -- first of all, it's available, and it's ready. Clearly, this won't be by any stretch the only bio fuel or any other way to power transportation in the future.
But our country clearly has a rather large view, clear view that this is going to be one of those fuels that are going to work now and into the future. So it's available. It meets our requirements from going in the right direction on carbon emissions.
It meets our requirement on being domestic, homegrown with the entire farming industry playing a role. That's a nice thing for us in helping power what goes on Sundays. So there are a lot of good reasons that this fuel is the one we've chosen today with Sunoco.
Q: Brian mentioned earlier that this would entail a lot of work for you on race weekends. Bob, I wondered if you could expound a little on what this will do as far as what changes for you guys at the track?
BOB OWENS: Well, I guess going from 100 -- first of all, we have a fair amount of experience. We sell over 500 million gallons of ethanol annually today, and we have a manufacturing facility, as I said. At retail we're marketing a 10% ethanol. So we have experience.
In a racing environment, what we did was look at -- we didn't just take Sunoco race fuel and dump 15% ethanol on top of it. We did a significant amount of testing, and research of our own prior to getting it to the teams for their testing to ensure that we had the proper blend of all the hydrocarbons to which we'd add the 15% ethanol to have, worst case, seamless transition, and best case, we were not surprised to hear of a little bit of horsepower gain.
The tricky part of ethanol, any alcohol versus a hydro carbon is a couple of things: It really likes water, and it acts as a solvent. So when we mix it with hydrocarbon, we have to be a lot more careful about humidity, rainy days, any type of moisture.
Secondly, with components, whether it's fiberglass, the resins in fiberglass or seals and things, there needs to be some care. A portion of that is for the teams to deal with. On our side of it, we decided to ensure that we had absolute chain of custody and control from the minute we mix it until it gets delivered into the dump cans.
The dump cans you will see will be altered as well to eliminate the possibility of any moisture getting in. So that is the biggest set of changes we made.
Q: Do we have any idea what the environmental benefit is in terms of how much you're reducing carbon footprint or something to that effect? And secondly, for Brian, you've talked about green opening up sponsorship opportunities for you. Just curious what you're seeing and if we should expect to see some of those soon.
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, we're not exactly certain of the carbon emission benefit, but there is a benefit. The reason we're not perfectly certain is they score that, depending on who you talk to, scores that differently, so we're not going to put a number out. But, clearly, it is going in the right direction.
It is my hope over time that we will be a more attractive place for the green economy as it unfolds down the road.
I can tell you, it's terribly important to the car manufacturers, each and every one of them, that we're in step with some of the strategic thinking that they're doing right now. And it's also important to our many, or almost all of our current sponsorship base.
But clearly if we do this the right way, we've always been the most friendly, from a sponsorship standpoint, anyway. Always delivered the most value, because of what you can do as a sponsor in and around the sport. And if we're more relevant to technology companies or to the green economy or both, that will be a very good thing for us.
Q: With the new building uptown, three races here, obviously a lot of the green initiative is being seen here in the Charlotte area. Talk about the impact. I know it's a nationwide thing, but it certainly has a big footprint right here.
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, it does. Because the R & D center is doing a lot of things from the technology standpoint of looking into the future. We did open the NASCAR Plaza as a lead certified building.
We're going to continue to do a number of things, and it will have an impact. Lot of the teams and suppliers of the technologies, and it's not just today is today. But as we go on, we need to be -- when I say "technology," we will advance technology probably different than we did a decade before.
But we'll still have to do any of these initiatives with an eye on. We've got to be careful not to blow someone's business model up on our way to doing the right thing.
The answer is we can do both. We can lay out a smart, steady strategy that will help our suppliers, it will help our teams, help our sponsors and do the right thing for our fans.