CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – NASCAR officials were pleased Monday with their first test of unleaded fuel and remain on schedule to have the gas in all of its series by 2007.

The unleaded gasoline was used in Saturday night’s Busch Series race in St. Louis, the first of a four-week test run of the fuel. NASCAR competition director Robin Pemberton said there were no major problems reported after the race.

“A lot of the engine builders shared information with our inspectors and there weren’t any issues,” Pemberton said. “You might have seen some extra wear and tear on some internal pieces, but the engine-builders have been working on unleaded fuel since we announced it was coming and no one had any problems.”

A handful of ARCA cars also used unleaded fuel during Friday night’s race in St. Louis, including driver Cale Gale’s winning entry.

NASCAR had planned to move away from gasoline with lead-based additives by 2008, but is now targeting next season. The Busch cars will continue to use unleaded fuel for three more weeks, and the Truck Series will begin a two-race trial run Friday night in Indianapolis and then in Nashville, Tenn., in August.

Following those events, NASCAR will switch back to the regular gasoline while NASCAR, Sunoco officials and team engine builders evaluate the unleaded fuel.

Both series will then switch back to the unleaded gasoline on Sept. 23 for the remainder of the season.

All ARCA cars will test the unleaded fuel in a race at Talladega to give engine builders a chance to examine the use of the gasoline in restrictor plate engines.

A decision on using unleaded fuel in the Nextel Cup Series isn’t expected until the end of the season, but Pemberton said the Cup cars won’t test it this year.

“We feel we are better off served with the Busch cars and the Trucks,” he said. “Even though they are a little less horsepower, the events don’t have as many miles as a Cup race so it gives engineers an opportunity to tear the engines down and look at how the fuel worked.”

NASCAR has used high-octane leaded fuel for decades, but has been searching for an alternative for years and has finally found a solution through supplier Sunoco.

NASCAR is exempt from the 1970 Clean Air Act, which required all automobiles to use unleaded fuel. Still, series officials tried an unleaded fuel in 1998 during some Busch races, only to find it contained additives that were dangerous when they came in contact with ground water.

All efforts to develop something that worked were lost when supplier Unocal pulled out after the 2003 season, and it’s taken the last few years to get up to speed with Sunoco.

AP-ES-07-31-06 1731EDT

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