Not so fast; Firestone makes tracks back
Dave Lewandowski, INDYCAR.com
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations and INDYCAR announced that Firestone will continue to serve as the sole tire supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series through the 2013 season.
Late last week the companies announced that they would allow the Firestone sponsorship and supply contract to expire at the end of the 2011 season.
“At the end of last week, we had reached the deadline where both organizations had to make a decision regarding the future to prepare our individual operations for the long term,” INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said. “This is one of those decisions that it is imperative that you have the team owners 100 percent behind you. Early this week we called a meeting to walk the team owners through the process and hear their input. I’m happy to say we walk as one with Firestone.
“We feel that this new supply agreement will benefit everyone. It provides a proven safe and reliable Firestone product for the transition to the all-new cars for 2012. We have to thank everyone at Firestone for working with us to help ensure the best for the long-term growth of our sport."
Firestone has supplied tires to the IZOD IndyCar Series since 1996 and has been the official tire supplier since 2002. The new agreement does not include Firestone Indy Lights, the developmental series for drivers and teams striving to reach the top level of open-wheel racing in North America. Firestone will remain as title sponsor and tire supplier of the development series through this season.
“INDYCAR called a meeting to inform the team owners of Firestone’s departure,” said Dennis Reinbold, co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. “When we learned of this, we encouraged INDYCAR to check with Firestone to see if there might be any chance to continue. We feel that it is important to maintain continuity with their excellent tires as we transition to the new car for 2012.
"The team owners are collectively very relieved that Firestone had an open mind and that they were able to reach this agreement with INDYCAR. Firestone Racing tires are not only important from a safety and reliability standpoint, but they contribute greatly to the wheel-to-wheel competition for which our sport is famous.”
Firestone tires are manufactured in Akron, Ohio, and the decision likely will affect almost 50 hourly workers and 20 salaried employees. The Firestone brand has been associated with racing since 1911 when its tires were on the winnng car of the inaugural Indianapolis 500.
“We are pleased that we were able to reach this agreement with INDYCAR,” Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said. “As we prepare to celebrate our involvement in the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, we are also focused on the future and the great opportunities that lie ahead.
"While we’ve reached the pinnacle of success in the IndyCar racing, we’re happy to extend our relationship with the IZOD IndyCar Series through 2013 and to continue our winning partnership. Meanwhile, we will continue to evaluate all options for promoting the Firestone brand inside and outside of motorsports, as the Firestone brand is a very important part of our business.”
Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations is a unit of Bridgestone Americas, Inc., whose parent company, Bridgestone Corporation, is the world's largest tire and rubber company. Reporting to the BATO business unit are the company's Latin American tire operations; the U.S. and Canadian consumer tire businesses; the U.S. and Canadian commercial tire businesses; and Bridgestone Retail Operations, which operates the largest network of company-owned automotive service providers in the world. BATO develops, manufactures and markets Bridgestone, Firestone and associate brand tires.
The IZOD IndyCar Series' season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 25-27. Teams are participating in an Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on March 14-15.