Firestone Racing not acting its age.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 12, 2002) - The Firestone Racing program, founded in 1909, is showing no signs of aging as it collected two more open-wheel championships in 2002 - and once again visited victory circle in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
Sam Hornish Jr., with Pennzoil Panther Racing, won the Indy Racing League championship while A.J. Foyt IV with Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing won the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series crown - both on Firestone tires. Additionally, Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500 on Firestone Firehawks, producing the 53rd Indy victory for Firestone - a record of wins unequaled by all other tire companies competing at Indy combined.
"After starting our racing program 93 years ago, we're not slowing down," said Firestone Racing Executive Director Al Speyer. "In fact, the opposite is true. Fans of oval-track, open-wheel racing are seeing some of the best action in history - and the performance of our tires is a major factor for the current quality of competition. In race after race in 2002, IRL and IPS drivers put on some of the most amazing performances ever conducted on oval tracks. These drivers have great confidence in their Firehawks, knowing they will have the grip, durability and consistency needed and expected for high-speed racing. We're proud of our contribution to such great competition, and are looking forward to similar success and accomplishments in 2003."
Speyer said the Firestone Racing program is well underway with its tire design, development and testing efforts for the upcoming season. Several IRL teams and drivers have already experimented with the Firehawk compounds and constructions to be used next year, and it appears the Firestone record of racing performance will carry over into 2003.
"We're very pleased with the feedback we've received thus far," Speyer said. "With nearly continuous changes to cars and tracks, there's a constant challenge to design and produce tires for new operating conditions. It's not an easy task, because the target keeps moving. But it's a task we relish because it allows us to demonstrate the technological strength of our company."
Indy Racing League Review:
The IRL completed its seventh season of competition in 2002, and Firestone is the only major component manufacturer (chassis, engine, tire) that has competed in each and every event in series history. This year's 15-race schedule saw nail-biting, wheel-to-wheel battles to the checkered flag at nearly every event. The title chase went down to the wire as well, with Hornish edging Castroneves in the season finale to claim his second consecutive championship. The results included: <pre> Date Track Pole Winner Race Winner March 2 Homestead Sam Hornish Jr. Sam Hornish Jr. March 17 Phoenix Helio Castroneves Helio Castroneves March 24 Fontana Eddie Cheever Jr. Sam Hornish Jr. April 21 Nazareth Gil de Ferran Scott Sharp May 26 Indianapolis Bruno Junqueira Helio Castroneves June 8 Texas Tomas Scheckter Jeff Ward June 16 Pikes Peak Gil de Ferran Gil de Ferran June 29 Richmond Gil de Ferran Sam Hornish Jr. July 7 Kansas Tomas Scheckter Airton Dare July 20 Nashville Billy Boat Alex Barron July 28 Michigan Tomas Scheckter Tomas Scheckter Aug. 11 Kentucky Sarah Fisher Felipe Giaffone Aug. 25 St. Louis Gil de Ferran Gil de Ferran Sept. 8 Chicagoland Sam Hornish Jr. Sam Hornish Jr. Sept. 15 Texas Vitor Meira Sam Hornish Jr. </pre> The unbelievably intense level of competition in the IRL was exemplified by the fact that the winning margin in nine of the 15 races was less than a half-second. Also, 10 different drivers recorded victories, including one stretch that saw first-time IRL winners in seven straight races. But it was the two triumphs to conclude the thrilling season that vaulted Hornish ahead of Castroneves and Gil de Ferran for the championship.
Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series Review:
The IRL top-level support series debuted to rave reviews and close competition, all flavored with a prominent Firestone presence. Firestone supplied tires to all IPS competitors in the seven-race season, with Foyt IV earning the Firehawk Cup for claiming the championship. The grandson of four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt Jr. raced to four IPS victories and out-dueled another driver with notable racing heritage, Arie Luyendyk Jr., for the crown. The results were: <pre> Date Track Pole Winner Race Winner July 7 Kansas A.J. Foyt IV A.J. Foyt IV July 20 Nashville Ronnie Johncox Cory Witherill July 28 Michigan Arie Luyendyk Jr. A.J. Foyt IV Aug. 11 Kentucky A.J. Foyt IV A.J. Foyt IV Aug. 25 St. Louis Ryan Hampton Ryan Hampton Sept. 8 Chicagoland A.J. Foyt IV Aaron Fike Sept. 14 Texas A.J. Foyt IV A.J. Foyt IV