IBJNews

Telecom supplier Telamon hopes to 'ignite' racing industry

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Carmel-based Telamon Corp. rose to become one of the largest minority-owned businesses in the metropolitan area largely by serving telecommunications giants.

Now the company founded in 1985 by Taiwanese native Albert Chen is veering off its traditional course to supply racing teams with an ethanol-based fuel made from corn grown in Indiana.

Telamon began marketing the fuel, dubbed Ignite, in September to sprint and midget car teams that run on the dirt tracks so prevalent throughout the Midwest. The company has yet to secure any commitments or contracts, but executives think it’s just a matter of time before that happens.

Reggie Henderson, former executive director of the Indiana Minority Supplier Development Council, is spearheading the effort as president of Telamon subsidiary National Biofuels Distribution LLC.

“We’re offering, particularly smaller racers and racers on a budget, the same octane [available in other racing fuels] but with a 100-percent American-made product made with Indiana corn,” Henderson said.

Henderson is the biofuels unit's sole employee but is receiving assistance with purchasing and accounting tasks from Telamon workers and—perhaps most important—backing from Chen.

While the plunge into alternative fuels may seem like a stretch for Telamon, Chen said his interest in "green" issues led him to endorse the idea introduced by Henderson.

“I thought, ‘yeah, why not,'” he recalled. “What a great opportunity to support a local producer.”

As a distributor, National Biofuels purchases its fuel from Central Indiana Ethanol LLC in Marion and will ship it directly to a racer’s address. Most racing fuels are sold in 55-gallon drums.

National Biofuels formally launched in September 2008 to provide municipal and government fleets with traditional E85 gasoline. Its clients include the city of Anderson, the Indiana Department of Administration and Vincennes University.

E85, which is 85-percent ethanol and 15-percent gasoline, is cheaper than traditional gas and can be used in nearly 8 million flex-fuel vehicles on U.S. roads today. Indiana has about 120 pumps—tied for third most with Iowa and Wisconsin.

But the racing fuel National Biofuels is marketing is blended with a higher ethanol content and burns even cleaner than the E85 used in average vehicles. Perhaps most important, its formula is cheaper than similar fuels produced by larger competitors.

Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc., for instance, sells its Turbo Blue racing fuel for about $7 to $9 a gallon. National Biofuels is pricing its product at about $5 a gallon, Henderson said. He declined to divulge revenue projections for the company. And Chen acknowledged that the company is unlikely to become a big moneymaker, unlike its parent Telamon, which posted $468 million in revenue in 2008.

Besides sprint and midget car teams, National Biofuels also plans to target the operators of monster trucks and high-performance tractors that participate in tractor pulls.

“A lot of those racers have roots in agriculture,” Henderson said, “so we think it’s a good fit.”

National Biofuels is a member of the Indiana Motorsports Association and is marketing its product through the association. Tom Weisenbach, executive director of the trade group, has given Henderson some guidance and thinks his venture has potential.

“There are obviously some big brand names out there, but they serve a very small scope of the racing industry in the United States,” Weisenbach said. “Considering Indiana has 49 active race tracks, it makes sense for an Indiana-based company to try to take this on.”

Most racing fuels, including National Biofuels’, contain an octane level of 108, which is much higher than the 91 octane found in premium, petroleum-based gasoline. But selecting what brand of fuel to use in a race car sometimes is beyond the control of a driver or owner.

The sanctioning body of a racing league or racetrack might require the use of just one brand, Weisenbach said, which could make it more difficult for National Biofuels to crack the market.

Even so, if National Biofuels is pricing its fuel cheaper than competitors, “then the racers and the racetracks will want to look at that,” Weisenbach said.

At the lowest levels of racing, fuel stipulations may not even exist at all. But most cars run on petroleum-based gasoline or methanol. Shane Cottle, a sprint car driver from Kokomo who drives in the United States Auto Club series, prefers methanol. He’s never used ethanol, and doesn’t know a driver who does, but said it might be worth considering.
   
“If they get the prices where they’re competitive and it doesn’t mess up the way the cars run, everybody is always looking for a cheaper alternative,” said Cottle, who won four races this year and finished second 13 times.

A car’s motor would need to be modified in order to accommodate ethanol. Henderson hopes his company can work with a race team to make the switch, to help promote the fuel to others.

Of course, Henderson  would like to see more drivers follow in the footsteps of Mario Clouser, a driver from Bloomington, Ill., who finished second this year in the United Midget Auto Racing Association’s points standings. 

“[Clouser’s] racing and using Illinois-based ethanol,” Henderson said. “We’re hoping Indiana races will start using Indiana ethanol.”

Clouser is pushing UMARA to adopt ethanol as its official fuel. The Indy Racing League did in 2007, but a decision last year to make a Brazilian consortium its ethanol supplier angered Midwestern farmers.

Brazilian ethanol is made from sugar cane but works in automobiles virtually the same as corn-based ethanol.

Mark Walters, biofuels director at the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Soybean Alliance, said his members would have preferred the IRL use corn-based ethanol. But he applauded National Biofuels’ efforts to further integrate the fuel into the racing industry.

“Indiana has a great motorsports tradition,” Walters said. “And having Indiana-produced ethanol in racing is great news for anyone interested in biofuels.”

Other than the IRL, the American Le Mans Series is the only other racing league to embrace alternative fuels. NASCAR is exploring the possibility but has put no timetable on adopting another fuel.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

ADVERTISEMENT