IRL Officials announce Firestone tire allocation for 2003.

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Dec. 6, 2002 -- Officials from the Indy Racing League announced Dec. 6 the Firestone Firehawk tire allocation for the 2003 season.

Full-time entrants in the IRL will receive 153 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires per driver for use during the 16 events in 2003, with 35 sets allocated for use during the month of May at the 87th Indianapolis 500.

Nine sets will be available for race weekends at Michigan International Speedway and California Speedway, while eight sets will be allocated at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Twin Ring Motegi, Kansas Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Gateway International Raceway, Kentucky Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and both races at Texas Motor Speedway. Seven sets will be allocated at Phoenix International Raceway, Pikes Peak International Raceway, Richmond International Raceway and Nazareth Speedway.

Full-time entrants also will be allocated 24 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires per driver for use at Indy Racing League Open Tests. Six sets will be allocated at Phoenix and Homestead, which are two-day Open Tests, while three sets will be available for one-day tests at California, Nashville, Richmond and Kentucky. The tires for Open Tests may be used only at an IRL Open Test on the scheduled days at the designated facility.

For private testing purposes, full-time entrants will be permitted a maximum of 21 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires for use between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 15, 2003. Any tires from the 2002 season must be returned to Firestone by Dec. 31, 2002, or the remaining tires will count against the 2003 allotment.

"This is a continuation of a policy implemented in 2002 that helps control costs for the teams participating in the IRL as well as controlling costs for Firestone," said Brian Barnhart, IRL senior vice president of operations. "It also helps create and maintain a level playing field for competition by restricting testing to a point that is equal for all.

"It is very consistent with the founding principles of the IRL in that it controls costs and provides equal opportunity for everyone to compete against each other. The policy was regarded as being very successful in 2002, and I expect it to continue to be a useful tool in 2003. The numbers for 2003 were chosen as a result of balancing the need to control costs and making sure there is adequate track time available for the teams to test the new chassis, engines, and gearboxes for the next generation of IRL racing."

Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota, the three engine manufacturers for the IRL, are each permitted 30 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires for use in private testing beginning Jan. 1, 2003 and ending April 30, 2003.

No engine manufacturer or entrant may sell, trade, or otherwise reassign the Firestone Firehawk tires to any other engine manufacturer or entrant Firestone has supplied tires for every IRL race since the league's debut race in 1996. In 2000, the company became sole tire supplier of the IRL and in 2002 became the exclusive tire supplier through 2005.

The 2003 Indy Racing League season begins March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.