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Searching for cause of contaminated fuel

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          NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, November 1, 2007

Officials still searching for cause of contaminated fuel
Problem affected more than just Hamlin's car at Atlanta
By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM

HAMPTON, Ga. - The contaminated fuel that caused Denny 
Hamlin's car to stall near the end of Sunday's race at 
Atlanta Motor Speedway might have been added to the car's 
fuel tank as early as Friday morning, according to Nextel 
Cup director John Darby. 

Speaking Monday during a two-day test session, Darby said 
NASCAR and Sunoco are actively pursuing the cause of the 
contaminated water that affected "more than two and less 
than 43" of the cars in the Pep Boys Auto 500. 

"Obviously, we're pumping out of the same pumps, the same 
tanks [during Monday's test] as we did [Sunday] with no 
issues," Darby said. "The way, typically, any amount of 
water that winds up, especially from dispensing the fuel, 
typically will settle out of suspension, showing up with 
the very first fills of the event. What our suspicions are 
is that some of the very early gas that was pumped out as 
early as Friday morning could have been where the 
contamination started." 

Darby has asked Nextel Cup teams to systematically 
disassemble their fuel filters and fuel cells from the 
cars involved in Sunday's race, in order to determine 
how widespread the problem might be. In addition, he's 
asking Craftsman Truck Series teams -- who also fueled 
from the pumps over the weekend -- to report on anything 
out of the ordinary. 


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"For example, our race winner [Sunday] night, in post-race 
inspection, we did find some evidence of some water in the 
fuel," Darby said. "Obviously, from a performance stand-
point, there wasn't an issue. [Then there was] a high level 
of contamination that we did find in a couple of cars, such 
as [Dave Blaney] and [Hamlin],where there was enough 
introduced into the fuel system that could potentially 
create some performance deterrents." 

Darby said the water that entered the system was a cloudy 
brown color. NASCAR, Sunoco and independent labs are now 
testing the substance to see what it might be -- and where 
it might have come from. 

"It's a brownish-colored water," he said. "Typically, if 
it was just water, it would appear to be more clear. What 
the residue in the water can help us understand is if it's 
come from a failed pipe or a pump or some other source that 
could allow that to enter the fuel." 

Since the fuel in the underground tank continues to test 
clear of contamination, Darby said the focus of the 
investigation then moves on to the method of dispensing 
the fuel. 

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"You've got an underground tank," Darby said. "You've got 
plumbing that connects the underground tank to the fuel 
pump. And you've got the fuel pump itself. So that's where 
the investigation is going on now because it appears that 
what's in the ground in the tanks is very clean. 

"So then what you look for is an area of the fueling 
system, whether it be the stand pipe, which connects the 
tank to the pump, or a pump hose, or the filtering system 
on the individual gas pumps, that may have picked up some 
water and let it pass from the pump to the cans the teams 

It's quite possible, according to Darby, that this winds 
up being an anomaly. 

"The introduction of what water we've seen has been in very 
small amounts, with the exception of a couple of cases," 
Darby said. "But those are the things that we're working 
with Sunoco to backtrack through to make sure. At the end 
of the day, was it one pump that had who knows what go 
wrong with it, or a way that the water was introduced, 
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Darby said NASCAR has ruled out sabotage -- and as to a 
conspiracy theory: "That puts that to rest because there's 
already way too many teams involved to select one that 
somebody didn't like. That helps to reinforce the teams' 
confidence in our security measures." 

Darby also ruled out the idea that condensation could have 
been the culprit. Sunoco officials do routine daily 
inspections of the underground tank for water contamination.

"Condensation is always a concern and that's why there's 
such an extensive monitoring system inside the underground 
tanks," he said. "I think we've surpassed the amount of 
water that you could blame on condensation. 

"What really has me puzzled is that it's not a real clear 
water. So once the laboratory reports come back from what 
the substance is and what's mixed with it -- Is it rust? 
Is it clay? Is it what? -- we don't know. I think that 
will help point us in a real good direction." 

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