IRL: Indy 500: Firestone preview

Firestone Continues Time-Honored Tradition Competing at Indy 500 Tire Maker Pursues its Record 56th Triumph at 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing' INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 8, 2005) -- It's the annual pilgrimage to the roots of automobile...

Firestone Continues Time-Honored Tradition Competing at Indy 500 Tire Maker Pursues its Record 56th Triumph at 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing'

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 8, 2005) -- It's the annual pilgrimage to the roots of automobile racing, and after more than nine decades, still nothing surpasses it for tradition, mystique and respect. It is indeed the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," a weeks-long challenge of talent, skill, patience and determination.

In that respect, not much has changed about the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Another constant in the legacy of this racing institution is Firestone. The tire maker was there at the very first Indy 500 in 1911, equipping the winning Marmon Wasp of Ray Harroun. Firestone will be there again in 2005, carrying one fortunate driver to victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 56th time -- a total more than all other tire suppliers combined.

"Indianapolis is the reason we are all here in this sport," says Al Speyer, Executive Director of Firestone Racing. "This great racetrack and this great race are where it all began. It's also where Firestone learned early on the importance of proving the capabilities of its tires for everyone to see, and we continue that time-honored tradition today. Firestone takes tremendous pride in being the Official Tire of the Indianapolis 500 and knowing that when the checkered flag waves on race day, the winner will get there on Firestone Firehawk tires."

Firestone is honoring its partnership with IMS again in 2005, in the form of specially lettered race tires that the drivers will be using all month. Once again, the race tire design will mimic the popular passenger line of Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tires. On the sidewalls in bold white lettering are the words "FIREHAWK" and "INDY 500." The "Firestone" lettering will be smaller than on the race tires at other events, with the right-side tires boasting red lettering and the left-side tires in white for easier identification. There is also a full-color IMS "wing and wheel" logo on every sidewall.

While the Speedway has been around for nearly a century, the track surface itself is brand new in 2005 and poses fresh challenges to drivers, teams and Firestone. Repaved over the winter, the track underwent a diamond-cut grinding in mid-April -- shortly before Firestone completed a successful tire test on the new surface.

"The test confirmed Firestone's Race Tire Development group made the right call in its tire selection for this May," says Speyer. "Not surprisingly, the tire specification chosen is identical to the 2004 tire spec that performed so flawlessly here a year ago. Tire wear was even better than we had anticipated at that test, and we expect it to continue improving as the surface gets 'rubbered in' over the next few weeks with thousands of laps run on it. Of course, tire management is always an issue at Indianapolis, since each full-month entry is limited to 35 sets of Firehawks for the duration. With the new qualifying format that permits a car up to three attempts on each day, we're certain to see some unique tire management strategies this year. It's something we'll monitor.

"Firestone also benefits from our position as exclusive tire supplier to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series," Speyer adds. "The Futaba Freedom 100 activities at IMS on May 26-27 provide Firestone another proving ground and serve as an excellent predictor for tire performance in the Indy 500."

FIRESTONE FIREHAWK FAST FACTS

Race Distance: 500 miles or 804.672 kilometers (200 laps around the 2.5-mile superspeedway).

Firehawk Race Tires Supplied: Firestone produced nearly 5,000 Firehawk racing radials for use throughout the month of May. All were produced at the Firestone Technical Center in Akron, Ohio. At the direction of Indy Racing League officials, each entry competing all month will receive 35 sets of Firehawks (140 total tires), to be used at the team's discretion throughout practice, qualifying and race sessions. The tire selected Indianapolis in 2005 is the identical specification as was successfully utilized at IMS a year ago.

A stagger-ing choice: On oval circuits, Firestone purposely molds its right-rear tires with a slightly larger diameter than the left rears to help the Indy cars turn more naturally and smoothly. This effect is called "stagger." At Indianapolis, Firestone provides two stagger options -- measuring approximately 0.33 and 0.43 of an inch -- to give teams more flexibility in car set-ups.

Firestone Performance Award: The Firestone Performance Award commemorates the tire maker's status as the only tire manufacturer to have participated in every IRL event since the league's 1996 inception. The award is given to the IndyCar Series driver who leads the lap number corresponding to the total number of series races run to that point. The Indy 500 on May 29 will be the 108th event in IndyCar Series history, so the leader of lap 108 earns the $20,000 Firestone Performance Award.

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