Rarely is "NASCAR and clean air" mentioned in the same sentence. Yet after NASCAR officials announced the "NASCAR Green Clean Air" program Friday, that can start to change.
In simple terms, NASCAR will oversee the planting of 10 new trees for each green flag that drops during Sprint Cup races. Eleven tracks are involved this year -- beginning with Michigan this weekend -- and all will be part of the program next year, which was instituted to help offset the carbon emissions produced by race cars during events.
According to NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France, this is just the beginning as the sport becomes more eco-friendly in the coming years.
"This is a first, important step in an ambitious five-year plan to significantly reduce the environmental footprint of NASCAR, while raising awareness of conservation among fans," France said. "Our goal is to be an environmental leader not only in sports but in all industry."
According to the official news release, each of NASCAR's three national series will eventually be part of the program. NASCAR and its partners will be planting about 20 acres of new trees each year.
A tree, according to the report, stores about one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. The entire CO2 emissions from a typical race will be offset during that time.
"Tree planting is one of the simplest, most tangible and lasting things we can do in our lives," said Kevin Sayers, state coordinator of the urban and community forestry program for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "The benefits are immediate and last for generations, improving the environment, the communities we live in and our quality of life."
Several NASCAR drivers were present at the news conference. Ryan Newman is part of a growing group of drivers who are active in environmental issues, and he is excited to see the program initiated.
"I think everyone knows that I am a big advocate for conservation and preservation of our environment," Newman said. "In fact, that's one area of focus for the Ryan Newman Foundation through the Racing for Wildlife program. I want to encourage kids and future generations to get out and enjoy the outdoors like I did when I was a kid, whether it be through fishing, hiking or just sitting outdoors.
"For me, fishing gives me a chance to get away from everything and just relax and enjoy the peacefulness and the scenery. I'm proud to be part of NASCAR's new green initiative to help the environment."
Officials pointed out that this isn't the first eco-friendly program instituted in the sport. There are strong waste-management, land-conservation and bottle-and-can recycling programs at NASCAR-sanctioned race tracks. All oils and car fluids used at the track are recycled; Goodyear recycles all tires used in racing, and Exide provides a recycling program for racing batteries.
Hey, we all criticize NASCAR when officials mess up. We should applaud them now for getting something very right.