An essential part of any NASCAR weekend is keeping and maintaining the racing surface clean and dry for competitors in practice, qualifying and the actual race. While NASCAR’s Air Titan has been at the forefront of the efforts to keep the track dry, another piece of equipment is just as essential to those efforts.
In its second year as a NASCAR partner, the Elgin Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper, or NASCAR’s Green Sweeper, is a major part of making NASCAR races function smoothly, all while doing so in a sustainable manner.
From conditioning the track prior to events, to cleaning up debris after incidents, to sucking up the water shed from the racing surface by the Air Titan, the Elgin Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper is making a lasting impact on NASCAR.
"Our partners at Elgin Sweeper are really an unsung hero in the sport. They are at the track each and every weekend clearing debris throughout the race and assisting the Air Titan to dry rain-soaked tracks, drastically reducing the number of NASCAR races postponed or shortened due to weather conditions," said Dr. Mike Lynch, vice president green innovation and STEM platforms, NASCAR. "During our partnership, Elgin Sweeper has exceeded our expectations by consistently meeting the rigorous demands at the track, all while helping reduce our impact on the environment."
So, what makes the Elgin Track Sweeper ‘green’ and environmentally friendly? Well, that is a multifaceted answer.
To start, Elgin Sweeper uses a proprietary shared technology system to run the Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper more efficiently, which uses less horsepower and saves fuel.
The vehicle features a two-engine system, with the sweeper featuring a John Deere diesel engine. Both the chassis engine and the sweeper engine are powered by a B20 biodiesel blend of fuel.
"We’re basically using formerly wasted energy from the chassis engine and diverting it back to power the sweeper itself," explained Mike Higgins, vice president and general manager of Elgin Sweeper. "It’s really been a great innovation for us. We’re using anywhere from 12 to 16 percent less fuel than we would normally. That’s quite of a bit of savings when it comes to your overall carbon footprint."
In figuring out how to use wasted horsepower from the chassis engine to power the sweeper engine, Elgin has been able to use a lower horsepower sweeper engine and increase fuel efficiency across the board.
By diverting the energy, the Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper saves roughly one gallon of diesel fuel per hour, which relates to about 22.4 pounds of CO2. Over the course of a NASCAR season, this technology offsets about 16 metric tons of CO2 being put into the environment, or the equivalent of planting 372 new tree seedlings.
Due to the extremes of many NASCAR tracks, Elgin Sweeper has highly customized the Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper as it relates to the consumer-facing product. The suspension is adjusted so that fluids do not leak out while cleaning the steep incline of the banking, there is unique sway bar technology and much more.
While the Elgin Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper is specifically designed for use on racetracks, the lessons learned in NASCAR are being applied to the product that is seen on streets and highways across the country.
"Without giving away too many secrets, we actually learn a lot from the development in NASCAR and the co-development working with the Air Titan team," said Higgins. "We learn a lot because it is kind of an extreme application. We’re trying to pick up a lot of liquid very fast. That helps us with the air movement and debris movement technology on a typical city street as well."
Although NASCAR’s Air Titan system has garnered the majority of attention since its implementation, the work it does would not be complete without the help of the Elgin Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper. While the Air Titan moves the water off the track quickly and efficiently with its high-powered blasts of air, all of that liquid needs to be removed from the racing surface somehow.
"We worked very closely with the whole group that developed the Air Titan, so we were a big part of that and looking at what exactly we were trying to accomplish and how our technology could compliment what they were working on," said James Crockett, motorsports marketing manager for Elgin Sweeper. "In the simplest form, the Air Titans are moving the water down the track and the Elgin Track Sweeper is vacuuming up that water. You’ve got to move that water off of the track so that the drying process can move along as fast as possible. We’re vacuuming large amounts of water in a short amount of time with the Elgin Track Sweeper."
Since the Elgin Track Sweeper also picks up large amounts of dust, debris and speedy-dry on the track, the company has also worked hard to keep any of those items from getting back on the racing surface.
"We have a strong emphasis on the best practices for utilizing water as a dust suppression internally on our system so that we aren’t that ‘Pig-Pen’ rolling down pit road," said Crockett. "We have a strong emphasis on speed, but no dust. That level of professionalism is translated across every speedway across the circuit."
Each track has specific instructions and areas in which the Elgin Crosswind Specialty Track Sweeper can dump the water and debris after it is picked up from the racing surface. The water picked up by the sweeper is then treated, while the debris is handled and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.
By working with the Air Titan to clean and dry the track faster than ever before, the Elgin Track Sweeper is also helping cut the overall footprint of the sport.
"We’ve experimented with our vacuum systems and maximized the aerodynamics underneath the sweeper so that we can pick up whatever it is we have to pick up fast. It’s all about speed," said Crockett. "We want to get that track back to quality racing conditions as fast as possible."
By speeding up the time in which it takes to clean and dry the track, Elgin Sweeper helps the event get back on track and to completion at a quicker rate. By doing so, the overall operations energy usage around the track – electricity used in the suites, media centers, lighting systems, etc. – is also reduced.