Race car, replica filling station promote Iowa State University's biofuels research

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State University and its long history of biofuels research will be featured at the Iowa Speedway's May 21-22 NASCAR weekend.

The No. 85 Chevrolet driven by Tanner Whitten in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East/West Challenge at 7 p.m. May 21 will race with Iowa State colors and logos. And a 1933 replica filling station on display at Iowa Speedway during race weekend will tell the story of Iowa State professors Leo Christensen, Ellis Fulmer and Ralph Hixon developing a blend of 10 percent corn alcohol and gasoline. Advertisements of the day called the octane-boosting blend "a superior motor fuel" that "means cornbelt prosperity."

"Iowa State University is all about putting science, technology and creativity to work for Iowa and the world," said Carole Custer, director of university marketing. "This promotion and sponsorship is a way to highlight the university's role in the development of ethanol and the university's continued leadership in biofuels research."

This year NASCAR started fueling its stock cars with a blend of 15 percent ethanol made with corn grown by American farmers. This month's races at Iowa Speedway will be the first time NASCAR's ethanol-fueled cars will race in Iowa.

To promote ethanol-fueled racing, Tad Whitten of In-Touch Marketing Solutions in Congerville, Ill., is organizing "Farmers Drive Iowa," a caravan of vehicles powered by biorenewable fuels. The vehicles include the Iowa State-sponsored race car, a John Deere tractor and several flex fuel vehicles.

The caravan's schedule for Wednesday, May 18, includes stops at Iowa State, Kum & Go and Casey's gas stations, the Iowa Capitol and Iowa Speedway:

● 7:30-8:30 a.m. Cars line up at the Biorenewables Research Laboratory on the west side of the Iowa State campus.
● 8:30 a.m. Caravan leaves Iowa State.
● 10 a.m. Stop at Kum & Go in Ankeny (1825 N. Ankeny Blvd.) for photos.
● 11:30 a.m. Arrive at the west side of the Capitol for interviews and photos. The event is free and open to the public. The pace car for the Iowa John Deere Dealers 250 Presented by Pioneer NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway joins the caravan at the Capitol.
● 1:15 p.m. Short presentations by representatives from Iowa State, Iowa Speedway and Sukup Manufacturing Co., a Sheffield company that manufactures grain storage, drying and handling equipment.
● 2 p.m. Caravan leaves the Capitol for Iowa Speedway in Newton. Media may be able to arrange rides in a caravan vehicle. Contact Whitten to make arrangements.
● 2:30 p.m. Stop at Casey's General Store in Colfax (501 W. State St.) for photos.
● 3 p.m. When the caravan arrives at Iowa Speedway, the pace car and Iowa State-sponsored race car will pull up to a replica of America's first ethanol filling station for refueling.

The replica ethanol station was featured at Iowa State's 2008 Iowa State Fair exhibit. The replica portrays the first fuel station to sell gasohol, as the fuel was known then. Throughout the race weekend, a short skit will be staged featuring a customer filling up his Model T Ford. The skit will also feature information about the Iowa State researchers who developed the corn alcohol and gasoline blend for the Earl Coryell Co. of Lincoln, Neb.

Iowa State researchers continue to study and develop ethanol and advanced biofuels. The research projects include next-generation biofuels, ethanol production, biomass harvesting, engine performance, biofuels combustion, alternative biomass crops and clean energy technologies.

Iowa State's biorenewable research centers include the Bioeconomy Institute, the BioCentury Research Farm, the Plant Sciences Institute, the Center for Crops Utilization Research, the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies and the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals.

Iowa State also established the country's first graduate program in biorenewable resources and technology.

Biofuels Digest named Iowa State its 2010 Institutional Research Facility of the Year.