Archive for Friday, June 30, 2006

Teaming up for ethanol

Indy racing rivals cooperate for a day

June 30, 2006

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— Indy racer Jeff Simmons couldn't help but wish it was Sunday.

Not only was his race car being filled with gas by competitor Vitor Meira at the Casey's General Store in Basehor, but the job of refueler also meant Meira was not ahead of him in a race.

"I don't think he's interested in the job, unfortunately," a smiling Simmons said.

Indeed, the Brazilian-born Meira admitted that Simmons would get no such favors at this weekend's Kansas Lottery 300 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

His pit crew duties for Simmons would only last one day.

"He would not like me as a refueler. I'm probably not strong enough," Meira said with a laugh. "He would not like it. That's definitely out of the question."

The two were part of a news conference Thursday highlighting the benefits of ethanol fuel.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the 10-percent ethanol gasoline was marked down to $2.20 per gallon at the Casey's station. More than 50 cars lined up at the start for the discount, with the earliest arriving 90 minutes before the pumps opened.

Indy Racing League's Vitor Meira, left, touches the tread of an Indy car parked at Casey's General Store in Basehor. Panther Racings' Meira spoke about the benefits of ethanol at a news conference Thursday in Basehor. Next year, the IRL will use 100 percent ethanol fuel.

Indy Racing League's Vitor Meira, left, touches the tread of an Indy car parked at Casey's General Store in Basehor. Panther Racings' Meira spoke about the benefits of ethanol at a news conference Thursday in Basehor. Next year, the IRL will use 100 percent ethanol fuel.

Ethanol - which is made from a variety of plants including corn - is now being used in all of the Indy Racing League's cars. The IRL is using a 10 percent ethanol-enriched fuel this year and switching to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in 2007.

The substance - which is renewable and has also been found to be less of an air pollutant than methanol-based gasoline - is nothing new for Meira. The go-carts he raced as a child in Brazil were run by ethanol in 1989.

Simmons, meanwhile, races in the No. 17 Team Ethanol car.

¢ Tony Kanaan, who won last year's Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway, will be both a driver and a spectator Saturday.

That's because his home country of Brazil faces France in the World Cup on the same day as qualifying for this year's Kansas Lottery Indy 300.

"Trust me, I'll hop out of my car after qualifying," Kanaan said. "That's where I'm going - straight to my bus. The game starts at 2 o'clock. I'll be there watching."

¢ Meira is looking to finally win at Kansas after coming so close in his previous two appearances.

In 2004, he finished second, losing by .0051 seconds to then-Rahal Letterman teammate Buddy Rice.

Last year he finished third, .0242 seconds behind Kanaan.

In all, Meira has missed two victories by a combined three feet.

"It's the longest yard ever," Meira said, "but that's what we all work for."

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