IRL: Indy 500: Firestone preview

As Indy 500 Reaches 90, Firestone Turns 70 at the Brickyard INDIANAPOLIS (May 5, 2006) - The "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" reaches a spectacular milestone in 2006, celebrating the 90th edition of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Throughout ...

As Indy 500 Reaches 90, Firestone Turns 70 at the Brickyard

INDIANAPOLIS (May 5, 2006) - The "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" reaches a spectacular milestone in 2006, celebrating the 90th edition of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

Throughout these 90 months of May spanning 95 years, there have been countless achievements, memories and heartbreaks. Through it all, one name has been more closely associated with the pageantry, history and lore of the Indianapolis 500 than any other brand: Firestone.

The 2006 running of the Indy 500 marks the 70th time that Firestone tires will compete in the great race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The only break in the relationship came from 1975-1994 when Firestone went on hiatus from most major motorsports competition. The famous Firestone brand made a memorable return to Indy in 1995 and has been a major force in American open-wheel racing since. The cornerstone of the Firestone Racing program remains Indianapolis and the "500."

"The Indy 500 represents the greatest that auto racing has to offer," explains Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing. "For all of us who are involved as manufacturers, it is simply amazing to look back at the technological advances that have occurred since this race first took place in 1911. It's a sporting event like no other - for Firestone that means an extreme test of tire technology in the only race in the world where tires are constantly pushed to the limits at speeds hovering around 220 miles per hour, lap after lap."

The "extreme test" that is Indianapolis has also rewarded Firestone more than anyone. As the exclusive Indy Racing League tire supplier since 2000 and the Official Tire of the Indianapolis 500 since 2002, all cars on the grid come race day will be equipped with Firestone Firehawk racing radials. That means Firestone will crown its 57th Indianapolis 500 winner on May 28, a total greater than the victory sum of all other tire manufacturers combined. To commemorate the lengthy relationshi p between Firestone and IMS, all IndyCar Series race tires for the month of May will again mimic the look of the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 passenger tires that debuted in 2003, featuring bold "FIREHAWK" and "INDY 500" white lettering and a full-color IMS "wing and wheel" logo.

While new for Indy, the Firestone race specification for this month is a proven and reliable commodity. The tires feature new compound formulas for all four tire positions that produced improved overall grip and better wear characteristics during last month's IMS open test. The identical specification also was used last month for the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. More than one driver is pleased with the Indy tire choice, including Helio Castroneves, the Marlboro Team Penske driver who drove to victory at Motegi.

"The Firestone Firehawks were amazing in Japan," says Castroneves. "We went the last 53 laps (79.5 miles) of the race on the same set and it seemed like they got better the longer we ran. I'm really happy that we'll be using the same spec of tires at Indy because I've already proven that I can win on them."

So, as the legacy of the Indianapolis 500 continues, so does the legacy of Firestone taking the checkered flag in the great race. Both, it seems, have become a Memorial Day weekend tradition.

"For the millions of fans who watch this race year after year, the Indy 500 is the ultimate showcase of technology, determination, skill, teamwork and the most daring drivers in the world," says Speyer. "This race has become an historic event. Year after year, we all gather in America's heartland to witness one of our country's greatest sporting events, and everyone at Firestone is proud and honored to continue to be involved."


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 built at the Firestone Technical Center in Akron, Ohio. At the direction of IRL officials, each entry competing all month will receive 35 sets of Firehawks (140 total tires), to be used at the team's discretion throughout the practice, qualifying and race sessions. The tire selected for Indianapolis in 2006 features a new compound formula to deliver even better grip and wear. The same specification was successfully utilized in April at the Indy open test and the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.

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.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves
Teams Team Penske