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NASCAR Races to the Bottom

NASCAR Races to the Bottom


If someone were to tell you that the #2 most popular sport in America is NASCAR, would you believe them?  Well, you should, because it’s true.  NASCAR comes in right behind the NFL with a whopping 75 million viewers each weekend. What’s the difference between watching cars race endlessly around a track versus watching men in spandex and helmets? The environmental impact.

NASCAR, for obvious reasons, is not the greenest sport in the world.  First and foremost, it’s centered around driving cars at high speeds instead of around pure human physical strength or endurance.  That fact alone bumps NASCAR into the “dirty sport” category, although I’m sure die-hard NASCAR fans aren’t too concerned. After all, while NASCAR race cars get between 2 and 5 miles per gallon, historically on high leaded gas, a typical fan has probably tuned out any thought of the environment or climate change.

To make matters worse, NASCAR race cars are exempt from EPA regulations that govern all other vehicles.  For example, NASCAR does not install catalytic converters into their race fleet, a basic emissions requirement for all other cars on the road.  The cars also go through tires like tissues.  In fact, each team uses approximately 8-10 sets of tires on an average weekend. Given it takes about 7 gallons of oil to make a single tire, the numbers quickly add up.

In an effort to “green” its image, the NASCAR fleet in 2011 introduced E15, an ethanol based additive into its racing fuel. E15 increases fuel power yet reduces efficiency, which unfortunately defeats the purpose of going green, even though “ethanol” sounds warm and fuzzy from a biofuels standpoint.  Also, keep in mind that we’re only talking about the race cars themselves here, not the support vehicles or the energy used by the stadiums, which quickly raise overall CO2 emissions, among other noxious pollutants.

Since it doesn’t appear that NASCAR is going anywhere anytime soon, perhaps it’s instead time to consider how to make this gas-guzzling and environmentally damaging sport less destructive.  But is that even possible, given the sport is intrinsically flawed environmentally?  The race cars themselves are extremely inefficient and wasteful and the accompanying stadium, supplies and equipment only add to this challenge. Maybe NASCAR could invest in electric or solar-powered cars?  Sure, those cars are not market competitive and can’t typically go 200 mph, but with all the money NASCAR brings in annually, one would think the chief executives could begin to invest in progressive, cleaner fuel technologies for their fleets.  It’s something to think about. Enjoying sports is a wonderful pastime, but enjoying a sport that’s so blatantly damaging to our planet deserves another hard look.


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7:34AM PDT on Aug 13, 2012

Nascar should come into the 21st century and get away from gas run cars. There are other alternatives that are a lot greener. But, since that change-over will most likely never happen, due to the greedy oil companies and a lot of moronic double -digit IQ rednecks as fans, then NASCAR should simply be banned/abolished!!

7:39PM PDT on Aug 12, 2012

It may be most popular, but it's not my favorite.
1 Lemans Series
2 Indy Racing League
3 Formula One
4 Nascar

Glenn Blackwell
Jackson, Mississippi

10:51AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

There are plenty of green vehicles now capable of racing speeds. But I guess they'd put some pit crew members out of work.

5:36AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

Well why don't we just ban all modern conveniences since everything is so bad for the planet. I get tired of always hearing when someone doesn't like something it's always ban it.let's just ban everything then

4:56AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

if the people involved think that this planet can afford to continue 'sustaining' activities like motor vehicle racing, they are SERIOUSLY mistaken. both car and motorbike racing are luxury 'sports' and should be BANNED OUTRIGHT for the impact they have on the lives of the rest of us through the fact that they are so environmentally destructive.

9:35PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Personally, I've never really been a fan of NASCAR. Frankly, though, I miss the days when they raced ACTUAL CARS around the track. As recently as the 1970s, you could go to the dealer and get the same car that Richard Petty was currently driving. (The only difference being the license plate and the VIN number.) NASCAR started out from a bunch of rum runners during prohibition claiming that they had the fastest car. To settle the argument, they got on a track. History was made, as well as a sport. (And it's such a popular sprot because it's so easy to follow when you're hammered. Face it, walk away for 10 minutes in the middle of the race and you really haven't missed a damn thing.)

A lot of good research and innovations have come out of NASCAR, Formula 1, et al. Motorsports in general aren't held to the same emissions standards as regular cars simply because they're not street legal.

NASCAR doesn't need to clean up it's image, it needs to clean up its act. Frankly, though, the military of EVERY government is far more wasteful on a per vehicle basis than any motorsport is. Why aren't there any articles claiming that they need to clean up??

9:32AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

While not a NASCAR fan for many of the reasons others have cited, those in favor of banning the sport clearly don't understand the history of motor-sports and the contributions to modern fuel economy and safety standards we have today. Things as basic as seat belts and helmets were pioneered in racing. Traction control evolved out of Formula 1. And the amount of R&D that goes into improving efficiency of design and aerodynamics cannot be ignored as significant contributions to real world applications.

Yes, it appears a ridiculous backwater sport at times, but the bottom line is that major forms of racing such as NASCAR are never-ending research projects, with results that trickle down to benefits for all of us.

7:35PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

Watching cars go around in a circle is entertainment?! If the world is to end in the near future, it would be a mercy killing.

6:29PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

Well the president and vice president's wife's were at a NASCAR race several months ago and didn't seem to have a problem with it. The Democrats were also going to hold some sort of a meet and greet day at the Charlotte motor speedway soon but backed out due to funding problems.

5:29PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

after about 5 beers and 10 hotdogs their brains are fried into thinking it's fun watching something go round in circles

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