IRL: Firestone Nashville pre-race report

Firestone Racing Eager to Compete at the "Backyard" NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 19, 2001) - With 52 Indianapolis 500 wins at the famous Brickyard, the Firestone Racing program is eager for its first win at a venue it calls the "Backyard." That will...

Firestone Racing Eager to Compete at the "Backyard"

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 19, 2001) - With 52 Indianapolis 500 wins at the famous Brickyard, the Firestone Racing program is eager for its first win at a venue it calls the "Backyard." That will come this weekend as the Nashville-based tire manufacturer supplies Firehawk racing radials to every team in Saturday's inaugural event at the new Nashville Superspeedway. Located within 30 miles of the corporate headquarters of Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. and the Firestone Racing program offices, the 1.33-mile oval track near Lebanon is also a short drive from two of the company's tire building facilities - one in Warren County near McMinnville and one in Rutherford County near Lavergne.

"We're thrilled to a have a racing facility of this caliber in our backyard, and are very excited about competing in front of employees, friends and family members," said Al Speyer, Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports Director. "More than 1,600 Bridgestone/Firestone employees, family members, dealers and special guests will be at the race Saturday night, cheering us on as the Firehawk tires take to this very fast new track."

The oval is unlike any other for the Indy Racing League, featuring an all-concrete surface and banking varying from 6 degrees on the backstretch to 14 degrees in the turns. That combination demands much from tires, and the Firestone Racing program is prepared for the challenge.

Each competitor is allocated eight sets of Firestone racing tires. The tires feature a durable compound and construction to permit the cars to run at speeds in excess of 200 mph, while lasting for a full fuel run. While the race will be run at night, with somewhat cooler ambient and track temperatures, the Firehawks are capable of enduring tread surface temperatures in excess of 212 degrees (the temperature of boiling water) during the race.

Defending IRL champion Buddy Lazier, who also won the 1996 Indianapolis 500 on Firestone tires, said he expects the field to race at average speeds of over 200 mph. "This looks like the kind of race track that produces a very exciting race," Lazier said. "There's a lot of banking, but not so much that you have to worry about the handling of your car. I envision two-abreast racing happening all night long, and occasionally three-abreast racing. This track has some similarities with Dover (also a concrete track) and some of the one-mile tracks we run. But it's unique unto itself and I think the fans are in for a great race."

One of Lazier's toughest competitors, current points leader Sam Hornish Jr., echoed those sentiments. "I think this is going to be a really fun track to race on," Hornish said. "Qualifying speeds will likely be in the 200- to 205-mph range, and I believe race speeds will average 200 mph. I think it will be an exciting race; as we lay rubber down on the track the line will widen and we'll see lots of two-wide racing, and that will be exciting for the fans.

Firestone has really been working with us to find the best compound and construction for this track. I'm sure they'll have the perfect tire for the race." The Firestone Firehawks for the Harrah's Indy 200 were produced at the Bridgestone/Firestone Technical Center in Akron, Ohio. Since the Nashville Superspeedway is one of six locations where the IRL has not previously raced, the tires for this weekend's race were selected following testing last week.

"The running at the track last week gave our engineers some very valuable data on tire performance," Speyer said. "The Firestone racing tire we're supplying for this event can be classified as having a moderate hardness - it's not our hardest but it's also not our softest compound - which should provide the grip and durability needed for Saturday's race. Since this track is somewhat abrasive and speeds will be high, we'll be working very closely with teams on the best set-up for their cars.

"We'll also recommend that teams scuff their tires - that is, put a few laps on them to put them through a heat cycle in practice - so they'll perform better during the race," Speyer added. "On a new track, teams will be lacking previous race experience for their initial set-ups, so we expect to see higher tire wear on the first day; that will improve as cars are balanced for the track."

The Firestone Racing program has provided tires for every Indy Racing League event since the first IRL competition in 1996. While the series is open to any tire manufacturer willing to take on the demanding challenge of high-speed, oval-track competition, Firestone has been the only tire in the series for the last two years.

"This is one of the world's toughest racing series, and we're proud our tires are strong enough to be a part of it," Speyer said. "With speeds of 200 miles an hour-plus common on a variety of tracks in races up to 500 miles in length, this is not a place to be if you don't make a great racing tire.

The men and women of Firestone Racing are thrilled to be a part of this series, and take great pride in how our tires have contributed to the quality of competition fans routinely see at IRL events."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Sam Hornis