As I’m watching the NASCAR season race to the finish, I caught a clip of a historic race from the 1980s, and I felt compelled to thank someone for all of the excitement and advancement of the sport. It’s come a long way in the short time I’ve been a fan.
So this thank you goes to Henry Ford. Why Henry Ford? He did not invent NASCAR or the automobile. He was gone almost two years before the first NASCAR drivers raced in Daytona Beach, FL. Ford deserves thanks because of his vision and innovation. Almost every working American could own a car because of him and he had bigger ideas going forward on how to fuel them.
In 1901, immediately after his first automobile company failed, Ford entered an automobile race with a goal to re-establish credibility with investors. He built and piloted a car he named Sweepstakes to victory over the most notable race car driver of the era, Alexander Winton. Ford never expected to win, but the prize money and attention of new investors launched the beginning of the Ford Motor Co. and Ford Racing.
Ford was smart enough to realize that his driving skills weren’t what got him in victory lane. His commitment to engineering and innovation were his key to victory. He gladly hung up his goggles and never drove a race car again. Seven years later, the first Model T rolled off the assembly line in Detroit and forever changed America. Few, however, remember and acknowledge that the Model T was the first production flex-fuel vehicle. Meaning it could run on gasoline, ethanol or both – a monumental example of American innovation and ingenuity.
Ford believed in consumer choice and renewable energy. He famously told the New York Times, “The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that of sumac out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust – almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented.”
Today, American Ethanol producers are using that same innovation and spirit to produce fuel, food and numerous products that you never would believe could come from a kernel of corn and vegetable matter.
If Ford were alive today, I’d like to think he would be an avid NASCAR fan. Not just because of the excitement and extreme competition, but he would find pride in the fact that NASCAR has raced more than 6 million flawless miles on Sunoco Green E15, a high performance biofuel made with 15 percent American Ethanol. He also would applaud the NASCAR Green platform, the most comprehensive initiative of recycling and sustainability in all of sports, in which American Ethanol is a founding partner.
This renewable fuel doesn’t just show up in the gas cans, it starts in the field – coming from the great stewards of the land, the American farmers, who are the undisputed champions in the world of agriculture because of their commitment to innovation, ingenuity and sustainability.
Being a competition sponsor in NASCAR guarantees American Ethanol a spot in victory lane every week. However, the real victory will come when the American consumer has a choice of renewable fuel at the pump.
Thank you to Henry Ford for his vision, thank you to him for his ideals and thank you to him for stepping out of his comfort zone and stepping into a race car.