By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Parked a few feet from the iconic pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a reimagined EZ -Go golf cart full of trash. Plastic bottles thrown in recycling bins months ago are now neatly laid out in rows – and they’re on sale.
The electric cart housed hundreds of Indy 500 T-shirts made from trash. The clothes are as soft as anything on the shelves of regular retail stores and are almost the same price. And it’s no coincidence that they took over the main retail space, located at the front door of the famous racetrack.
They are at the center of IndyCar’s latest push to go green, called “The Penske Initiative.” The series takes more steps – some bigger than others – toward holding carbon -neutral races into 2050. No, really.
What might have been considered a ridiculous effort just a few years ago is now a reasonable goal despite trucks full of gasoline and IndyCar tires, as well as countless dirt like of emissions, chemicals and petroleum products. And that doesn’t include the garbage that comes with hosting nearly 300,000 fans for the 106th run of the Indy 500 on Sunday.
“These are childish steps,” longtime IMS President Doug Boles said. “It’s like a hundredth of a second for cars. It doesn’t seem like much, but if you add four or five changes, then suddenly you get a tenth of a second. There we go. Many small things at the end of the day are expected to make a big impact. ”
That includes putting traditional balloon release to a halt due to environmental and wildlife impact concerns.
Here’s a look at some of the more notable trades Penske Entertainment has done to help fight global warming and do its part in raising the green flag to keep it going:
IndyCar will be the first racing series in North America to use 100% renewable fuel in its racing cars.
Shell, the long-time fuel sponsor for the open-wheel series, announced plans on Friday to move to low-carbon fuel starting in 2023. The new fuel is a combination of second-generation ethanol derived from of sugarcane and other biofuels, and it will produce fuel that is 100% composed of feedstocks categorized as renewable under applicable regulatory frameworks. The oil giant says the gasoline can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to fossil-based gasoline.
“You have to be part of the solutions, and the way that is through these powerful technology -driven partners,” said Penske Entertainment President and CEO Mark Miles. “Carbon reductions come from good technology and innovators. We have both.”
Firestone has been working on a new tire since 2012 and is almost on the finish line to get it on track.
The tire manufacturer created a research center in Mesa, Arizona, a decade ago and hired hundreds of biologists, chemists and botanists to help develop the guayule shrub. Guayule produces natural rubber and seems to be the future of racing wheels.
Almost 90% of the world’s rubber comes from Hevea brasiliensis in Southeast Asia. Harvesting the trees and getting the rubber back to North America is expensive and creates a heavy carbon footprint. It is also in geopolitical instability.
Guayule is a cheaper, more durable alternative that changes itself in about three years and requires about 50% less water than other plants.
Guayule’s wheels, distinguished by sidewalls painted green, made their IndyCar debut during the Pit Stop Challenge on Friday. They will get an even more important test at the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee in August, when IndyCar uses wheels made of rubber guayule.
“You don’t want to go straight to the Indianapolis 500,” said Cara Krstolic, director of race wheel engineering for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. “You want to get there in stages. One of the fun things about racing is each and every time you show something that comes in the car that you and I drive.”
Penske Truck Leasing used two full electric tractor-trailers to haul all the race wheels used in May from the Firestone distribution center. IndyCar has installed a high-speed charging station at IMS that can charge a truck that is about to be charged in about three hours. The trucks made six trips to move 12 trailers full of wheels.
The expansion of electric tractor-trailers and the installation of additional charging stations could be the next carbon conservation steps for a series that will regularly cross the country.
IMS installed a pilot program in May for collecting food waste and sending it to an off-site composting facility. Prepared and unused food, which in previous years would have been in the trash, is now stored in a refrigerated trailer to be taken daily to food banks.
The electric golf cart full of clothes made from recycling, however, caught the most attention in Indy this week. The cart has remained in place for the past two weeks, but officials plan to make it a market that moves forward. It has a range of 50 miles and is equipped with an electric generator rather than running LED lights and a point-of-sale device.
Each shirt is made partially from 6½ plastic bottles and uses water -based inks. There are five designs from priced between $ 32 and $ 35.
“When people get up there and feel the shirt, they can’t believe it’s made out of plastic bottles,” said Raeann Suggs, senior sales buyer for IMS and IndyCar. “I would have said,‘ I don’t buy a shirt made of plastic bottles. That would be rubbish! ‘ But it’s literally rubbish that feels weird. ”
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