CHAMPCAR/CART: Firestone Season Review

Firestone: Where the rubber meets the road (November 17, 1998) -- For the last three years, Firestone-equipped drivers have dominated CART's Champ Car competition. The proof? Three consecutive points championships, most wins, most poles, most...

Firestone: Where the rubber meets the road

(November 17, 1998) -- For the last three years, Firestone-equipped drivers have dominated CART's Champ Car competition. The proof? Three consecutive points championships, most wins, most poles, most laps led, most podium sweeps-and most satisfied drivers in one of the world's premier racing series.

The results are even more staggering when you consider Firestone was absent from the sport for two decades, making its reappearance in 1995.

"During our first year back, we only had five CART drivers on Firestone tires," recalls Al Speyer, Bridgestone/Firestone motorsports director. "Other drivers quickly recognized the quality of our tires-and the competitive advantage they provide-enabling us to soon equip the majority of the field."

>From five drivers in 1995, Firestone had 10 in 1996, 15 in 1997 and 19 in 1998. Drivers on Firestone tires won 13 of 17 CART races in 1997, including the last 11 races in a row. In 1998 competition, Firestone won 13 of the first 14 events and started from the pole position in every contest except one in the same time span.

"We view this as a stunning accomplishment, particularly when you consider who our competitor is," Speyer says. "We took on a tire company that bills itself as #1 in racing, and which has seemingly limitless global research and development capabilities. Our engineers were up to that challenge, and have produced some incredible tires, quickly reversing the roles and putting our drivers consistently in front of the pack."

The Firestone brand has enjoyed a winning reputation on and off racetracks for nearly a century. Founded in 1900 by Akron, Ohio, resident Harvey Firestone, the company has been involved with motorsports for almost 90 years. A driver on Firestone tires won the very first Indianapolis 500, launching a string of 50 victories at that track, more than all other tire manufacturers combined.

"Racing not only provides a tremendous showcase for our tires, it's a great laboratory for research and development, allowing us to produce better tires for the street," Speyer says. "A perfect example is the Firestone Firehawk SZ50 ultra high performance tire, featuring UNI-T technologies and tread pattern elements modified from our FedEx Championship Series racing rain tire. It's a classic example of how racing benefits consumers."

Firestone's continuing dominance of the CART series has had an enormous impact on sales of its passenger and light truck tires.

"Racing is red hot right now and so is Firestone," Speyer says. "One of our tires-the Firestone Firehawk SS10-has sidewall lettering nearly identical to the sidewalls of our champ car racing tires. Fans like that distinctive look."

Source: CART Online/Firestone.

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Series IndyCar