IRL: Nashville: Firestone preview

Firestone prepares for big 'Family Reunion' at Nashville race NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 17, 2003) - It's family reunion time for the Firestone Racing family, and what better place to welcome all your loved ones than your own backyard? For the ...

Firestone prepares for big 'Family Reunion' at Nashville race

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 17, 2003) - It's family reunion time for the Firestone Racing family, and what better place to welcome all your loved ones than your own backyard?

For the third consecutive year, the exclusive tire supplier to the Indy Racing League is taking a leading role at the open-wheel series' stop in Firestone's hometown of Nashville. The Firestone Indy 200 is slated for Saturday evening at Nashville Superspeedway, just down the road from Firestone's corporate headquarters, Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC.

For Firestone, this weekend provides the perfect occasion to bring together the racing portion of the family with its corporate siblings. It's an opportunity both sides enjoy.

"Every race where we compete is important to us, but this weekend takes on increased significance," said Al Speyer, Executive Director of Firestone Racing, who is honorary starter for the race. "The Firestone Indy 200 gives us a chance to really show everyone in the Firestone family the incredible competition, excitement, exposure and value we derive from the racing program. From title sponsorship of the event, to entertaining our largest group of employees, dealers and guests at any race, to the sheer thrill of watching the fine Firestone Firehawks deliver speeds of more than 200 miles an hour on the racetrack, it's an incredible few days for us all."

Festivities actually began today at the new Bridgestone/Firestone corporate headquarters, where all 850 corporate employees were invited to a cookout and street festival. The fun-filled afternoon included visits from 15 IndyCar Series drivers and the Firestone Firehawk mascot, as well as Indy Racing Experience and Firestone Racing simulators for the employees to get a feel of what it's like to race on the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway. John Lampe, Chairman, CEO and President of Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., commandeered a spatula and served up grilled chicken and hot dogs, with proceeds from the cookout going to Second Harvest food bank.

Friday's on-track activities feature practice and qualifying for the IndyCars plus qualifying and the race for the IRL Infiniti Pro Series. All cars in both series compete on Firestone Firehawks.

On Saturday, Firestone expects to host 2,600 family members at the race, an increase of more than 600 from 2002. Employees from headquarters and nearby manufacturing plants, sales associates from company-owned and independent dealer outlets, guests and families will be on hand. Prior to the race they'll enjoy a concert performed by Nashville resident Wynonna Judd, plus visits to the Firestone hospitality chalet from racing dignitaries and race grand marshal Drew Bennett of the NFL's Tennessee Titans. In addition, in a special ceremony at the chalet, General Motors will present its prestigious "Supplier of the Year" award to officials from Bridgestone/Firestone for the eighth consecutive year.

Then comes the main event, the aptly named Firestone Indy 200, with Speyer waving the green flag to commence the 200-lap event.

"It certainly will be an action-packed evening for all," said Speyer. "The spectacle of IndyCar racing is usually enough by itself to satisfy our guests at races, but this race features so much more for them to enjoy. We cannot put in words how honored we are to be receiving GM's 'Supplier of the Year' award for an incredible eighth straight time, and that for the third year in a row that GM officials have seen fit to present it to us at this event. It gives the greatest number of our employees possible the chance to participate in and enjoy this tribute."

Oh, and there's the tiny matter of the race itself, on the challenging concrete oval. It's the primary reason for the Firestone "reunion" and definitely not overlooked amidst the hoopla.

"Nashville Superspeedway is a stern test for race tires because of the nature of the rough concrete surface," Speyer explained. "It takes a very durable tire to stand up to that abrasiveness, but by the same token, if you opt for a tire that's too 'hard,' it can cause the cars to slide through the turns and the tires wear just as much, if not more. We believe we hit on an optimum tire specification last year and will return with that same Firehawk spec for the 2003 race.

"As usual," Speyer added, "the Firestone Racing engineers will continue their race-weekend practice of diligently monitoring tire performance. We'll work with all the teams to help them achieve the best tire performance attainable, allowing them to maximize overall car performance. It should once again be a very exciting IndyCar show to watch."

FIRESTONE FIREHAWK FAST FACTS
Indy Racing League IndyCar Series - Round 9 of 16
Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway, Lebanon, Tenn.
July 18-19, 2003 - Pre-race Notes

Race Distance: 266 miles (200 laps around the 1.33-mile oval).

Firehawk Race Tires Supplied: Firestone delivered 860 Firehawk racing radials for use this weekend. Each car receives up to eight sets of tires (32 total) for use as its team sees fit throughout practice, qualifying and the race. The tire specification is identical to the one that provided a consistent, durable performance on the Nashville Superspeedway concrete oval last year. It also was used in last month's race at Pikes Peak International Raceway and is slated for use in next month's IndyCar Series event at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.

Stagger Helps the Cars Go 'Round: Firestone engineers purposely design the right rear tire to have a circumference slightly larger than that of the left rear tire for oval competition. The size differential is minor - just 0.51 inches this weekend at Nashville - but the effect, called "stagger," helps the IndyCars turn left more naturally and smoothly - and decreases the stresses on car and driver alike.

The Official Tire of the IRL: Firestone is the exclusive tire supplier to the Indy Racing League for both the IndyCar and Infiniti Pro series. The Infiniti Pro Series reaches the halfway point of its 12-race season with Friday evening's Cleanevent 100 at Nashville Superspeedway.

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Series IndyCar