In a daring midnight raid, Indianapolis Motor Speedway security forces claim to have broken up a fuel doping scheme by Andretti Green Racing.
IMS yellow shirts raided the AGR garages at the speedway earily Wednesday and confiscated 50 gallons of Everclear, a 190-proof grain alcohol. Security forces said they became suspicious when they found dozens of flattend cardboard Everclear cases in track dumpsters. Security routinely checks dumpsters to make sure anyone inside holds the proper credentials.
Chester Vigilant, spokesman for the IMS security force, said authorities now believe AGR was planning to mix the Everclear with their fuel supply to increase its ethanol content. In 2006, the IndyCar series started using a 90% methanol/10% ethanol blend. They plan to switch to 100% fuel-grade ethanol in 2007.
Two key facts in the scheme:
1) ethanol (or ethyl alcohol, sometimes called "grain alcohol") distilled for use as fuel is the same alcohol as that distilled for use in alcoholic beverages. In fact, federal law requires 100% pure ethanol be mixed with gasoline or another substance to make it unfit for human consumption (denatured) before it can leave an ethanol production plant.
2) ethanol contains 77,000 BTU per gallon, compared to methanol's 64,250 BTU/gallon content. That means, all other things being equal, a vehicle will travel farther on a gallon of ethanol than it will on a gallon of methanol.
Since Everclear is 95% ethanol, AGR allegedly figured it was close enough to fuel-grade ethanol to give them a few laps more per a tank.
"It was a fuel mileage scheme," said Vigilant. "They mix the Everclear with their fuel, that drives up the ethanol content, they go more laps without pitting, bingo, the bitchslapping ends. Plus, it's a good thing to do for the American economy."
Vigilant said AGR was apparently driven to the scheme after going winless in the season's first three races. In fact, Marlboro Team Penske drivers have led 317 of the first 400 laps of 2006. AGR is winless in the first three races of the season, finishing every race behind Penske and Target Chip Ganassi. Rumors that Penske plans to put stickers on its cars that say "How ya doing back there, AGR?" or "Is that a Toyota engine you got there?" could not be confirmed.
Representatives from AGR insisted the 50 gallons of ethanol were collected in preparation "for our Indy victory punch party." AGR said they would vigorously contest all charges and make full use of the appeal process. Paul Tracey allegedly responded with an e-mail wishing them the best of luck on that deal.
In other news, Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford Rookie Sensation Katherine Legge responded to rumors that she would drive at Indy this year with, "225 in a car on an oval? You'd have to be daft."