CUP: Green Flags To Carry Ethanol Message

Going Greener – NASCAR underlined its commitment to “green” energy Thursday by announcing a six-year partnership with American Ethanol and the Growth Energy ethanol coalition, which includes suppliers and farmers.

NASCAR announced earlier this year it will move to an ethanol mix for its three major national racing series next season. Thursday’s announcement names the Growth Energy group as an official NASCAR “partner” and re-emphasizes NASCAR’s drive toward new energy forms.

Growth Energy, represented at Thursday’s announcement by – among others – retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former presidential candidate and the company’s co-chairman, will use the NASCAR platform to spread its message that ethanol, produced using corn products, has an increasing role in America’s energy future.

“There is nothing more American than NASCAR, and there is no fuel more American than ethanol,” said Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO. “We are so proud that the bounty of American farming will be used in NASCAR racing.”

At the garage area level, the major change will be that fuel will be dispensed by Sunoco to teams from mobile haulers instead of the traditional fixed stations at tracks.

Additionally, American Ethanol will join NASCAR’s contingency program, awarding money at each race to the driver who records the fastest average speed on restarts and who finishes the race on the lead lap. Also, the green flags used in NASCAR races will carry American Ethanol branding.

He’s Got His Game On – Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson announced Thursday that he will partner with Autumn Games to market “Jimmie Johnson’s Anything With An Engine” racing video game beginning next year.

The game, still under development, will feature a bizarre collection of drivers and vehicles competing on many different landscapes, none of them traditional auto racing tracks.

Johnson said he wanted to participate in the development of a different sort of racing game, one that would stand apart from the ones based on NASCAR and other organized racing.

Examples displayed at the announcement Thursday included drivers piloting juiced-up lawnmowers and rockets through an urban landscape of destroyed buildings and tossed bombs.

Smokin’ In Vegas – NASCAR’s top 12 drivers took to the main drag of Las Vegas – the so-called Strip in front of the city’s major casino-hotels – to parade their race vehicles in front of thousands assembled along the route.

Champion Jimmie Johnson had the day’s featured role, spinning into a big burnout as the drivers arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel for a fan forum.

Knaus Praises Team – In a season in which the word teamwork took on a new public meaning for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, Chad Knaus, crew chief for champion Jimmie Johnson, said the concept made the difference in Johnson’s fifth title year.

“It’s teamwork,” said Knaus in accepting the championship crew chief award at the National Motorsports Press Association luncheon Thursday. “It’s all about teamwork. We simply would not be where we are without it.”

That was emphasized on a grand scale near season’s end as Knaus made the call to replace Johnson’s pit crew, which had been struggling, during mid-race at Texas Motor Speedway with Jeff Gordon’s crew.

The switch, which was important as Johnson went on to rally from behind and edge Denny Hamlin for the championship, became a major story, but Knaus has continued to insist this week that it was simply another way the Hendrick operation shows its willingness to support every driver and team within the group.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.