IRL: Firestone ready to roll in 2003

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 3, 2003) - As the Indy Racing League begins its Test In The West at California Speedway, the paddock is filled with an exciting mixture of newcomers and seasoned veterans. With new teams, new drivers, new tracks and new ...

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 3, 2003) - As the Indy Racing League begins its Test In The West at California Speedway, the paddock is filled with an exciting mixture of newcomers and seasoned veterans. With new teams, new drivers, new tracks and new equipment, there is one common denominator among all competitors in the IRL IndyCar and Infiniti Pro Series fields: The sure-footed performance of Firestone Firehawk racing radials.

Firestone tires have appeared in all 71 IRL IndyCar competitions since the league's first event seven years ago in Orlando, Fla. During that inaugural season in 1996, encompassing three races, every contest was won by a Firestone-equipped driver. After four years going tire-to-tire with Goodyear, the Firestone Racing program started the 2000 season as the IRL's sole tire supplier - and has continued to approach the competition with unflinching attention to providing excellent racing tires.

"It's very challenging to design and produce tires for the IRL IndyCars," said Firestone Racing Executive Director Al Speyer. "The combination of large superspeedways and ovals, each with its own unique banking and surface, is just part of the equation for us. We also have to factor in weather and the continual evolution of the racecars. Fortunately, we have some of the world's top engineers working with the Firestone program, so we've been able to consistently meet the demands of this competition." The number of tires provided to every IRL IndyCar is determined by league officials. Full-time entrants will receive 153 sets of tires per driver for use during the 16 events in 2003, with 35 sets for use during the month of May at Indianapolis, nine sets at Michigan and Fontana, eight sets at Homestead, Motegi, Kansas, Nashville, St. Louis, Kentucky, Chicagoland and both races at Texas; and seven sets at Phoenix, Pikes Peak, Richmond and Nazareth. Full-time entrants will receive additional allocations for open and private testing with 24 sets going to each driver at IRL open tests (six sets for the Phoenix and Homestead tests, three each for the open tests at California, Nashville, Richmond and Kentucky) and 21 sets for private team testing.

Along with providing tires to every IRL IndyCar, for the second year the Firestone Racing program will also fit its Firehawks to every car in the Infiniti Pro Series. The reliable performance of the Firehawks is a plus for the driver development program, allowing teams and drivers to focus more on the driver than on the car - a plus for developing and refining driving talent.

The Firehawks used in the Infiniti Pro Series are similar in size to those used in the IRL IndyCar series (15-inch rims, 10 inches wide in front and 14 inches wide in rear), but have a different diameter and feature a different compound and construction more suited to the needs of the IPS sprint events.

Since the early fall of 2001, when Firestone was named the exclusive tire for the Indy Racing League, there have been numerous marketing initiatives benefiting the league and the tire manufacturer. In May 2002, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 street tire was introduced, the only functional automotive component ever authorized to wear the famous Indy 500 name and wheels-and-wings logo. New cross promotions are planned for 2003.

"Beyond supplying tires and technical support to all teams, we're a partner with the Indy Racing League, promoting its distinctive style of racing," Speyer said. "You'll see Firestone commercials in all television race broadcasts, along with a mixture of print and other advertising emphasizing our involvement. We're also planning some regional promotions with increased involvement by Firestone retail outlets. These campaigns provide enhanced visibility for the IRL and emphasize the importance of our tires to each and every competition. We're confident these efforts will provide many benefits for us and for the league."

The Firestone Racing program is a unit of Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC, with operating headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. In 2003 IRL action, the Firestone Racing program is seeking its seventh Indy Racing League driving championship and its 54th victory in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

-firestone

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Series IndyCar