Last weekend was a historic one for Richard Childress Racing (RCR), one of the most storied teams in all of NASCAR, as they celebrated their 50th anniversary. In the fall of 1969, Growth Energy Board Member and Chairman/CEO of RCR Richard Childress got his first opportunity to compete in NASCAR due to 16 drivers going on strike before a race at Talladega Superspeedway. From that point forward, Childress built a dominant racing team that has been a cornerstone of the sport ever since.
To mark the occasion, Childress himself took to the track once again to drive the official pace car for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega in Dale Earnhardt’s legendary No. 3 Chevy. Last Sunday’s race marked the first time Earnhardt’s iconic black and red No. 3 car – still equipped with the same engine he used to secure his final NASCAR victory in 2000 before his tragic passing in 2001 – had been taken out of the RCR museum. You can head to the RCR Twitter page to watch the video of Childress driving the world-famous Earnhardt Goodwrench car.
Austin Dillon’s No. 3 American Ethanol Chevy Camaro ZL1 was also decked out in style to celebrate the 50-year anniversary, featuring a gold No. 3 and gold accents on our American Ethanol “e” logo. Dillon’s performance lived up to the occasion as he drove a fantastic race, avoiding multiple big wrecks that are a hallmark of Talladega and fighting his way up the field from the 18th position to a 6th-place finish.
Dillon said of the thrilling race, “I’m so glad we were able to bring home a solid finish with our No. 3 American Ethanol / RCR 50th Chevrolet today. We needed that. We were able to avoid all the big wrecks today and managed to be in contention at the end. On that final run, I just needed the No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.) to pick me up for us to really have a shot at the win. He had a heck of a run coming, so that would have been really nice and propelled us even more forward. We did everything we could with what we had and came close. It was a good weekend for us. The racing was close, and we were close to the front.”
Meanwhile, Austin Dillon wasn’t the only American Ethanol driver to wow fans on the track, as NHRA Pro Stock driver Deric Kramer and his American Ethanol team won the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals playoff race. Kramer’s win, his second of the season, came at zMAX Dragway in North Carolina on Monday after rain delays forced the weekend action to be postponed.
“The motto around our pit is simply not to screw up,” Kramer said after his victory at the Concord, North Carolina-based racetrack. “Nothing stellar or really quick happened today but we wanted to do the best we could in our American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro and have them work at trying to beat us today. We were able to hold off for four rounds and here we are – in the winner circle.”
Like Dillon, Kramer had to overcome the adversity of a low qualifying position and turned in a clutch performance to ultimately score the massive win. In the final round, Kramer and his competitor Matt Hartford took off at nearly the exact same time, each with a .03-second reaction time, and Kramer’s 6.541-second, 211.33 mph run ultimately edged out Hartford’s 6.558-second, 211.00 mph pass. The win moved Kramer up to 5th-place in the Countdown to the Championship standings.
“It means I’m still in,” Kramer said about jumping up two spots in the points. “Ultimately, when you have a day like today after the last few races we’ve had, it means I still have it as a driver to perform under pressure. It was hard to put St. Louis’ fluke driving error behind me, but I was able to do that today. I think we’ve still got a chance at this championship if we can keep this momentum; It’s not over yet.”
The American Ethanol Late Model Tour (AELMT) was scheduled to hold its championship race last Saturday at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., but Mother Nature intervened and prevented fans from seeing one last action-packed dirt track race. As a result, the race was cancelled, and AELMT points leader Brandon Thirlby was crowned champion for the second-straight year. Thirlby’s championship run this year closely mirrored his success last year, winning just one feature race in both seasons. Consistency was key for Thirlby, who compiled two Motul Motor Oil and Lubricant Fast Qualifier Awards, four podium finishes, and six top-five finishes throughout the season. That body of work allowed him to beat out second-place finisher Travis Stemler by a narrow margin of 26 points.
Randal Holmes is a supply chain planner for Growth Energy associate member Novozymes, but also races in a unique off-road racing circuit called Ultra4 in his spare time. Ultra4 takes desert-style Baja racing and combines it with steep, rocky hill climb features to form a grueling race format where attrition acts as the great equalizer. Due to the intense nature of the racing in harsh, extreme conditions, it’s not uncommon for a many drivers in a given field to not even finish a race.
Holmes’ season started in February 2019 at the King of the Hammers Every Man Challenge race in Johnson Valley, Calif. Against a field of 135, Holmes’ custom-built American Ethanol car finished the 165-mile course in just over nine and a half hours for a 33rd-place result.
The third race of the year provided a host of challenges for Holmes, who had to tackle the 60-mile course without a co-driver for the first time in his career, meaning all navigation, driving, and repair duties fell on his shoulders. Holmes damaged his transmission in practice, which meant he would have to take on the tricky Oklahoma course without the use of third or fourth gear. That issue loomed large near the end of the race, with Holmes having to solo-winch his way up a 20-foot rock climb near the end of the course. Ultimately, the perseverance paid off with a third-place podium finish. Holmes and team had to fight through continued wear and tear for the final race of their season at a course in Kentucky, but were able to finish the event regardless. The team’s refusal to give up resulted in a second-place finish in overall season points in the Ultra4 East Coast Championship.
“Of course, none of this would be possible without the great support of Growth Energy and American Ethanol,” Holmes said. “The added performance and cooling properties of E15 fuel no doubt helped us survive when things got heated, both with the car and the environment itself.” Be sure to follow Holmes on Twitter as he gears up for the next Ultra4 season.
Kyle Mohan will compete at one of his hometown tracks this weekend, the Irwindale Event Center, in the final Formula Drift event of the year. Mohan and his team will look to finish the season strong in his American Ethanol Mazda RX8. He and the team plan to have a large footprint set up at the track with another partner, Mazdatrix, where Mohan will be able to talk to fans about the benefits of cleaner-burning American Ethanol in his Mazdatrix rotary engine. After the season wraps up, Mohan will have a show car on display at the 2019 SEMA Show – the premier automotive trade show in the world – in Las Vegas at the end of the month. His show car will feature American Ethanol branding, and Mohan told us he looks forward to talking about the role biofuels play in his racing program at that event as well.