On the surface, handling and storing racing fuel appears to be simple. However, racers can make a lot of mistakes.
To find out the most common errors and to gather some tips for handling fuel safely, Stock Car Racing found some advice that all racers should abide by whether they compete in a top series or a local short track.
For starters, experts say a little common sense goes a long way when handling fuel safely. It's the little things that are taken for granted, such as smoking a cigarette around gasoline fumes or keeping the fuel out of direct sunlight.
"It is obvious, but people do things wrong every day," says Tim Wusz, performance products engineer with 76 Racing Gasoline. "I had a friend of mine who caught his garage on fire because he wasn't thinking when he was working with a welding torch. He was using gasoline to wash his parts and that's something you should never do. I asked him what in the world he was doing that for, and he told me it was quicker than using the proper cleansing solvent.
"I agreed with him, and told him that was why he had all those fumes in his garage before he torched the place. It is common sense, but not everybody exhibits that trait all the time."
Whether it's at the track or back at the shop, race teams should follow several guidelines for storing and handling fuel.
Correct StorageOne critical area is the type of container used to store and transport fuel. It is recommended that fuel be kept in 55-gallon steel drums.
"Plastic jugs are very poor storage containers for a number of reasons," says Art Brown, technical and operations manager for Sunoco Performance Products. "For one, they can't be sealed tightly." In addition, Brown says, the white containers are bad about allowing the light to hit the fuel, and that's detrimental to the gasoline.
Racers should make sure their containers meet Department of Transportation standards for transporting fuel. Approved containers will feature an embossed stamp on the bottom.
"Some of those plastic-type materials are insulators and don't allow for the dissipation of any of the static charges that might be built up," Brown says. "It's always better to use a metal container, though the colored containers will work fine if handled correctly and if they're not used as storage containers for long periods of time."
Wusz agrees that plastic gasoline jugs should be used sparingly, especially when storing fuel at the shops.
"I suggest steel containers as the way to go," Wusz says. "Plastic jugs are a poor way to store fuel because the sunlight or the florescent lights in the shops can get to the fuel and that does two things: it deteriorates the level of lead in the gasoline and it also attacks the dye of the gasoline that is there for identification purposes. If you have a clear white jug sitting around full of red gasoline for a couple of weeks, it's not going to have the same red color that it should have.
"The dark-colored jugs are better than the clear jugs. If you can see the level of gasoline in the jugs, then you don't want to store it in them for very long. If worse comes to worse and the white jugs are all you have, put a blanket over them to shield them from the light."
Time LimitsTeams should also consider how long they can store gasoline before it runs the risk of getting contaminated. Brown says Sunoco racing fuels will last from six months all the way up to a year if stored in the proper containers and not exposed to extreme swings in temperature or direct sunlight. Wusz says 76 Racing Gasoline can be stored for up to two years.
Then there's the issue of how long fuel should be left in the race cars. Experts say it's OK for Friday- and Saturday-night racers to simply leave their leftover fuel in the fuel cells until the following week, as long as the cars are stored in a well-ventilated area.