The 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season opener was the GM Flex Fuel 250 held at Daytona Beach February 17. For Team Chevy fans, the only two trucks in the field that counted were Ron Hornaday Jr. in the #33 Silverado and Dennis Setzer driving the new E85 Silverado. We'll begin our story on flex-fuel performance with the E85 Silverado's graphics. Emblazoned across the bright yellow and green hood is the phrase "Corn Fed." Judging by the sponsors NASCAR racers have, one might wonder what exactly they mean by corn fed. Does Mark Martin dump Viagra in the tank of his Nextel Cup car or Scotts Miracle-Gro in his Craftsman truck for octane booster? It's extremely unlikely, but there's no doubt in our minds the E85 Silverado could race on E85. Is this the same E85 ethanol we have all been hearing about on the TV news at night when alternative fuels come up? Yes, and before you get turned off by the subject, let us explain that E85 comes right out of the pump rated at 105 octane.

We thought that might get your attention, but of course there might be some of you, regardless of how much octane the stuff has, who might not be willing to accept burning E85 in a customized old truck. We understand, it's the same kind of panic we all felt when they removed the lead antiknock compound from premium gasoline.

But things are a little different this time around. Instead of having to detune our motors with lower compression ratios, we can actually bump up the compression and reap good public relations in the process. In addition to taking advantage of E85's 105 octane to produce more horsepower, ethanol is sulphur neutral, which translates into producing less greenhouse gases than pure petroleum-based fuels. Naturally, there are two schools of thought on this aspect of ethanol, but we'll leave that to the people who like to argue about that kind of stuff. There's one thing we know for sure: less sulfuric acid forming in an engine's crankcase means less engine wear and being able to run the same oil for longer intervals. So as one can see, the positive effects begin to snowball. Less wear means the engine burns less oil, and fewer oil changes translates into less polluted oil the environment has to deal with.

Sure, there are some modifications that will have to be made, but isn't making modifications to increase performance what customized classic trucks are all about? Instead of installing hardened seats to compensate for lead's lack of lubrication, there are other considerations that have to be taken into account regarding ethanol. The first is that while not as caustic as methanol, ethanol is corrosive. Starting with the truck's gas tank, the original steel tank has to be replaced with either a polyethylene or high-grade stainless steel tank. Since most people opt to remove the stock gas tank from their cab and relocate it to a safer spot with a custom fabricated tank, this is not a big deal. Next in line (not to make a pun) are the fuel lines. Again, since few people retain the aged stock parts and have already replaced the lines with stainless steel, the only thing to double check is if the rubber lines are compatible with ethanol (this can be verified with the manufacturer).