IRL: Michigan: Firestone preview

Firestone Celebrating a Decade of Success This Weekend at MIS Site of 1st Victory of Modern Era 10 Years Ago Playing Host to Firestone Indy 400 BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 28, 2005) -- It all began with a bold pass of the reigning series champion for...

Firestone Celebrating a Decade of Success This Weekend at MIS
Site of 1st Victory of Modern Era 10 Years Ago Playing Host to Firestone Indy 400

BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 28, 2005) -- It all began with a bold pass of the reigning series champion for first place on the last lap. Ten years and 198 race wins later, the Firestone Racing program is cemented as a leader in all of racing.

Scott Pruett, driving a car owned by Pat Patrick Racing and equipped with Firestone Firehawk racing radials, completed the memorable overtaking maneuver of Al Unser Jr. on the final lap of the Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway on July 30, 1995. Pruett took the checkered flag to hand Firestone its first major open-wheel victory following the tire maker's return to competition that season after a 20-year hiatus.

Firestone and the racing community are back at MIS this weekend for, appropriately, the Firestone Indy 400, on the 10-year anniversary of that momentous win. While the open-wheel landscape has changed, Firestone remains a constant. Now the exclusive tire supplier to the Indy Racing League, Firestone continues writing its legacy as a staunch supporter of the sport and reliable friend to drivers who put their trust in what many regard as the "best tires in the business."

For those involved in the Firestone program back in 1995, however, there were no such grand illusions.

"Firestone rejoined open-wheel competition as the truest of unknowns," recalls Al Speyer, the executive director of Firestone Racing who's guided the program all 10 years. "We were up against another manufacturer that had 20 years of experience on us, not to mention three-quarters of the cars on the grid. But after a full year of thorough and methodical testing in 1994, when we logged more than 12,000 miles with Scott Pruett and Patrick Racing, we truly believed the Firestone tires could compete -- and they did.

R 20;I still recall Scott's win at Michigan like it was yesterday," Speyer adds. "That triumph started the snowball effect to where Firestone quickly became the dominant tire in U.S. open-wheel competition. Within five years, the competition withdrew, but Firestone's commitment to constantly upgrading its race tires still drives us."

Firestone became the sole supplier to open-wheel racing when Goodyear withdrew following the 1999 season. In 2002, Firestone signed on as Official Tire for both the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, and assisted with formation of the IRL's driver development program by creating the Firestone Firehawk Cup awarded annually to the champion of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.

Last year, Firestone and the IRL celebrated the 100th race in league history together since Firestone is the only tire supplier to have participated in every IndyCar Series event. Later this season, Firestone will collect its 100th IndyCar Series race win.

"It's hard to believe we've come so far after just 10 years," Speyer says. "We swell with pride knowing so many drivers achieved great success with Firestone in the last decade. We've seen 54 different drivers win an IRL or CART race on Firehawk tires, and for 44 of those drivers, Firestone was the tire that put them in victory lane for the first time at this level. More than just the race winners, we're also proud that so many more drivers and teams trust our product implicitly. It's been a wonderful ride so far, and we're hopeful it continues for a long, long time."

And to think, it all began with a tenacious and unforgettable last-lap pass at MIS.

Firestone Indy 400 -- Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich.

Race Distance: 400 miles or 643.738 kilometers (200 laps around the two-mile superspeedway).

Firehawk Race Tires Supplied: Firestone delivered 924 Firehawk racing radials for use this weekend. All were produced at the Technical Center in Tokyo, Japan. At the direction of Indy Racing League officials, each car receives nine sets of Firehawks (36 total tires), to be used at the team's discretion throughout the practice, qualifying and race sessions. The tire specification for MIS is new for 2005, featuring a new left-side tire compound and minor modification to the front-tire construction. The changes were made to help the Firehawks stand up even better to the punishment handed out by the high speeds and loading forces generated at this high-banked superspeedway.

A stagger-ing choice: On ovals, Firestone purposely molds its right-rear tires with a slightly larger diameter than the left rears to help the Indy cars turn more naturally. This effect is called "stagger." The diameter difference is minor -- 0.39 of an inch this weekend -- but it constitutes a major difference to cars and drivers.

Firestone Performance Award: During pre-race festivities Sunday, Firestone Racing will present a $10,000 check to Dan Wheldon of Andretti Green Racing for earning the Firestone Performance Award by leading lap 113 last weekend at Milwaukee. The award commemorates Firestone's status as the only tire manufacturer to have participated in every IRL event and is given to the driver who, in each IndyCar Series race, leads the lap number corresponding to the total number of races run to that point. This weekend at Michigan, the leader of lap 114 will earn the $10,000 Firestone Performance Award.

On-track photos from all sessions this weekend and every IndyCar Series race weekend are available for media use at the Firestone Media Gallery. Go to www.FirestoneMediaGallery.comand enter "media" when prompted for a log-in. Accredited media may publish the photos free of charge, provided each photo is credited "Firestone Racing/Dennis Ashlock."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Scott Pruett , Dan Wheldon