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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

Sunoco pumps up speed for NASCAR

Crew members fuel Robert Pressley's truck during a pit stop yesterday at Michigan International Speedway. Crew members fuel Robert Pressley's truck during a pit stop yesterday at Michigan International Speedway.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

BROOKLYN, Mich. - The answer to "What makes those cars go so fast" has a lot of parts to it. It takes a bunch of money, metal and know-how.

The fuel is important, too. The stuff sloshing around in your tank is likely 87 octane and cost about two bucks a gallon. The gasoline that allows Nextel Cup drivers to push their cars to close to 200 mph is a different flavor, a different brew.

All three of NASCAR's circuits - Nextel Cup, the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series - run on a highly refined fuel that has an octane rating of 112. It is known as Supreme 112 in the industry, and if you could buy it at the corner station, it would run about $6 per gallon.

The fuel is formulated specifically for NASCAR racing by Sunoco, the top supplier of racing fuel in the U.S. The formula is guarded like Colonel Sanders' secret recipe at Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it is certainly one of the highest-octane fuels made. And at about three miles per gallon, they use a lot of it.

All of the racing fuels used by NASCAR for its races are processed at Sunoco's plant in Marcus Hook, Pa., south of Philadelphia. The fuel is trucked to the race sites. Some tracks like Michigan International Speedway have underground fuel tanks to hold the gasoline, while mobile units are dispatched to the rest of the tracks.

"We need a consistent product for high-performance applications," said Chris Buitron, the brand-marketing manager for Sunoco.

"Clearly, the partnership with NASCAR is a natural for our organization for a number of reasons. We have always had a big share of the racing-fuel market, but this solidifies our relationship."

Buitron said the NASCAR demographic profile matches up well with Sunoco's.

"We market in NASCAR country," he said. "We are a regional player, and we're only in about half of the states. Sunoco is big in Florida, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. We're extremely happy with our relationship and look forward to the future."

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