NASCAR celebrates Race to Green at Martinsville
March 28, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
NASCAR’s second annual Race to Green initiative, a month-long program aimed at building awareness around the sanctioning body's commitment to protecting and preserving the environment, officially got underway Friday at Martinsville Speedway.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entries competing here this weekend are adorned with green branding across the top of their windshields and carry the NASCAR Green logo on their A-posts. The logo also appears on the backstretch wall of the 0.526-mile track while NASCAR officials are wearing similar logo patches on their uniforms.
The NASCAR Green platform was created in 2008 to promote environmental awareness across the industry as well as among race fans. According to Dr. Michael Lynch, vice president of green innovation for NASCAR, the platform "is unquestionably the biggest and broadest green platform in sports in the world, based on our fan impact numbers."
"We have the most impactful green platform that's ever been in the United States of any kind, whether in sports or another industry, government or non-profit, because of the size and focus of our fan base," he added.
The Race to Green initiative, unveiled last year, provides a window of opportunity to bring NASCAR Green to the forefront.
"To really raise awareness of the participation of NASCAR nation and the NASCAR industry in green sustainability in a way that … brings green to Main Street in a high performance, uncompromising way and that is also very smart business," he said.
There were 19 official partners that participated in the initiative during the inaugural year of the Race to Green campaign, Lynch said, including stalwarts such as Sunoco, Toyota, Coca-Cola, 3M and UPS.
Ninety percent of the race teams also participated.
"There were about 24,000 trees planted by official partners, close to 180,000 that were planted by fans and the Arbor Day Foundation and the Virginia Department of Forestry," he said. "It was just an absolutely massive first year that actually resulted in a tree-planting volume that … literally does offset the greenhouse gas emissions of our racing for the next 18 years on top of the five years we've already been at NASCAR Green."
For 2014, he said, "We're going to do at least another 140,000 more trees."
The list of official partners has grown -- Lynch said there are now 27 activating around this year's program -- and 100 percent of the teams are participating in some fashion.
While the program officially begins this weekend at Martinsville, tracks scheduled to host upcoming NASCAR events will also be involved. Texas Motor Speedway will feature green flags across pit boxes and haulers during its April 4-6 Sprint Cup/NASCAR Nationwide Series race weekend; Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway will host ceremonial tree plantings during their respective race weekends (April 11-12 and April 25-26) as well. Start/finish lines will feature green and white checkered patterns.
"And not only our national series (tracks), but also a couple of the Virginia home tracks, specifically South Boston and Langley Speedways are going to get involved in this in a major way as well," Lynch said.
Many of the official partners already have "green" programs in place; in many instances, such programs are an extension of those companies' current efforts.
"UPS … has a program at corporate level where they are planting 1 million trees with the Arbor Day Foundation across a range of sites to help offset their environmental impact having to do with their shipping business," Lynch said. "Their involvement with us … it absolutely is an extension of the corporate tree-planting planting program."
Fans and members of the industry can donate trees to be planted across the country (visit www.nascar.com/green for more information), including many areas that have been severely damaged due to natural disasters.
"Joplin, Missouri, is a great example," Lynch said, "as well as Oklahoma last year, with the tornado devastation that happened there (in Moore, Okla.)"
The tree planting is a large part of the program, but far from the only one. The recycling of tires, automotive fluids and waste generated by 80,000 or more fans over the course of a typical race weekend are part of the NASCAR Green program, as was the move to Sunoco's E15 biofuel, which contains 15 percent ethanol.
Partnering with companies such as Safety-Kleen not only makes good business sense, but good ecological sense, according to Lynch.
Safety-Kleen collects all used automotive fluids during race weekends (which adds up to "about 200,000 gallons a year" according to Lynch) for disposal or re-use.
"They re-refine them with cutting edge chemistry and make them into products that can be used again, or disposed of in by far the most eco-friendly way," he said.
“What's unique about a NASCAR Green partner is that in addition to their being a brand affiliation and the marketing and promotion and those aspects of those things that are commonly understood … NASCAR Green partners as a general group are a lot like our competition partners.
"Because regardless of whether it involves the racing product, or (something) at or around the race track, or in the infrastructure or the venue, (they) are involved in the operations of the sport by definition because we need to be implementing something with a green partner in order for it to actually matter, for it to impact our environmental footprint."