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Ethanol playing a part in this year's Indy 500

Pole position for the 90th Indy 500 will be determined this Saturday in Indianapolis, and ethanol-blended fuel will be powering some of the cars.

In this year's race, scheduled for May 28, all Honda engines will run on a blend of 10% ethanol fuel and 90% methanol. Officials say by next year's race, all of the cars racing in the Indy 500 will run 100% fuel-grade ethanol.

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman will be at the Brickyard racetrack for practice on Thursday, which has been designated "Ethanol Day." He will serve as an honorary pit crew member on the Rahal Letterman Team Ethanol car driven by Jeff Simmons. He'll also hold a press conference to discuss ethanol in racing and the future of renewable fuels in this country.

This marks the first time since 1965 that a new fuel grade will be incorporated into the Indy 500. That year, methanol was introduced.

The transition to ethanol-blended fuel has shown no significant technical stumbling blocks, according to race officials. In fact, duringt the first two IndyCar Series races this year, Sam Hornish Jr. broke the Homestead-Miami Speedway qualifying track record and Dario Franchitti set a new one-lap record at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with the new fuel blend.

"The transition between methanol and ethanol in our cars has been very smooth," said Phil Casey, Indy Racing League senior technical director. "Our cars don't sound differently, smell differently or run differently than they have in the past."

The 2006 Indy 500 will not be the first time ethanol has powered a car in the race. In the 1927 race, a car driven by Leon Duray was operated with ethyl (grain) alcohols.

Pole position for the 90th Indy 500 will be determined this Saturday in Indianapolis, and ethanol-blended fuel will be powering some of the cars.

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