IRL: Firestone Commits to IRL, Indy 500 through 2005

FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 5, 2001) - Firestone, the only tire to have competed in every Indy Racing League event since the series began nearly six years ago, will continue its involvement with the league through 2005, officials from ...

FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 5, 2001) - Firestone, the only tire to have competed in every Indy Racing League event since the series began nearly six years ago, will continue its involvement with the league through 2005, officials from Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. and the Indy Racing League announced today at Texas Motor Speedway.

"There have been 55 Indy Racing events thus far, and Firestone tires have been on the track in every one," said Tony George, Indy Racing League president and CEO. "The Firestone Racing program has consistently demonstrated it can supply the quality tires needed for our high-speed, oval-track competition. We're very appreciative of the steadfast support from Firestone, not just in providing great tires, but also in helping the Indy Racing League put on great shows for fans at the Indianapolis 500 and other events across the United States.

"With Firestone's continuing involvement, we believe our series will continue to grow and prosper, and that we'll have some tremendous competitions in the years ahead. We wanted one tire supplier for safety and cost-control benefits, and we're pleased Firestone is going to be that supplier."

Shu Ishibashi, executive vice president of Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. and president of the company's U.S. Consumer Tire Group, said the continuing relationship "underscores our strong commitment to the Firestone brand, to maintaining its historical place in motorsports and to building enhanced consumer confidence in our tires.

"We've worked very hard to provide world-class race tires and support services to the IRL," Ishibashi said. "We're quite proud the IRL acknowledged our loyalty, our past performance and our potential for future contributions to great racing action by making Firestone the official tire of the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Racing League. Our desire to continue in the IRL and the Indianapolis 500 emphasizes our company's commitment to strengthen Firestone, a brand that has been in service for more than 100 years. We felt there was no better place to showcase the brand known as 'America's Tire Since1900' than at the greatest American race: the Indianapolis 500. It presents a major challenge to any tire maker but also tremendous rewards."

In addition to now being the exclusive tire for the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500, Firestone will also be the exclusive tire for the newly created Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series, a new IRL driver development series. As part of that commitment, a Firehawk Cup will be established. Firestone Firehawk racing radials will be supplied to both the Indy Racing League and Indy Pro Series competitions.

From 1996 through the end of the 1999 season, Firestone and Goodyear tires were used in IRL competitions. Goodyear abandoned the competition in 1999, leaving Firestone as the sole tire supplier in the IRL for 2000 and 2001. When both brands were in IRL competition, Firestone-equipped drivers won the season championship outright twice and tied for it once, and won the Indianapolis 500 twice, increasing the total number of Firestone wins at Indy to 50. Firestone has since collected two more wins at the Indianapolis 500, and now with 52 Brickyard victories has more wins there than all other tire companies combined.

As part of its continuing relationship with the Indy Racing League, Firestone will use the series to investigate new technologies, provide training for its engineers and strengthen its marketing programs. Firestone also will maintain its role as a promotional partner, boosting visibility of the league and its participants. Other opportunities for joint marketing programs are being discussed.

"Since the first IRL race in 1996, we've promoted the league's activities and personalities through our advertising and marketing programs," said Al Speyer, Bridgestone/Firestone motorsports director. "That was an important consideration for the IRL as it evaluated tire supply for future IRL events. In our recent discussions with the league, we focused on an integrated package that involves print and television advertising support, and tire supply. We intend to keep on earning the IRL's faith in Firestone by being the best tire supplier it could ever have."

Firestone engineers recently completed a tire test at the two-mile Michigan International Speedway, a new IRL venue, and work is continuing to design and develop Firehawk constructions and compounds for 2002. The Firestone race tire development program is a global effort, involving hundreds of engineers and other professionals in several facilities. Firestone tires for IRL events are produced at technical centers in Akron, Ohio, and Tokyo, Japan.

"When the 2002 IRL season kicks off March 2 at Homestead, we'll be ready," Speyer said. "We're looking forward to that competition, and to many more great IRL events in the future. We're also very excited about the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series; we believe that is an important career ladder step for the drivers of tomorrow, and a great new competition for open-wheel racing fans. In both arenas, we'll demonstrate the technology of Firestone tires and the talents of our people."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony George