IRL, Firestone revive Indy Lights name

FIRESTONE TO SPONSOR INDY RACING LEAGUE'S DEVELOPMENT SERIES Series to be known as Firestone Indy Lights INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 26, 2008 - Pairing open-wheel racing's past and present to help mold the sport's future, the Indy Racing...

FIRESTONE TO SPONSOR INDY RACING LEAGUE'S DEVELOPMENT SERIES
Series to be known as Firestone Indy Lights

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 26, 2008 - Pairing open-wheel racing's past and present to help mold the sport's future, the Indy Racing League and Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT), proudly announce an agreement which sees the Firestone brand assume title sponsorship of the Indy Racing League's official development series and re-establish the series name as Firestone Indy Lights.

The change harkens back to the 11 seasons that BFNT served as title sponsor and exclusive tire supplier to one of the most successful driver development series in American history. Firestone and Dayton brands headlined the Indy Lights Championships from 1991-2001. Many of today's top open-wheel competitors cut their racing teeth on its diverse array of tracks.

Current IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia, Scott Dixon and Townsend Bell are all past Indy Lights champions, not to mention current team owners Eric Bachelart and Robbie Buhl. In addition, Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon used Indy Lights as a seasoning steppingstone on their way to capturing Indianapolis 500 victory glory.

When the Indy Lights series disbanded after 2001, Firestone continued its strong support of young open-wheel talent by becoming the Official Tire for the Indy Pro Series which debuted in 2002. Aspiring drivers such as A.J. Foyt IV, Ed Carpenter, Jay Howard, Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh have parlayed that experience into IndyCar Series rides and successes.

"This is a fresh start driven by tradition," said Al Speyer, Executive Director of Motorsports, BFNT. "Our company has a long history of supporting the development of talent in the open-wheel ranks; this will be our 18th consecutive year doing so. With the unification of open-wheel racing, we thought it the perfect time to merge the excitement of the IRL's growing support series with the rich history of Firestone Indy Lights."

The multiyear agreement officially renames what has previously been the Indy Pro Series to Firestone Indy Lights, effective immediately. Drivers will continue to compete for the Firehawk Cup awarded annually to the season champion. Firestone also maintains its status as Official Tire for Firestone Indy Lights, as well as the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. In addition, the Firestone Indy Lights event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23 becomes the Firestone Freedom 100.

"In light of the unification process, Tony George and the IRL asked Firestone to step up and support the sport even more than we have done in the past," Speyer said. "We believe that this agreement further exemplifies Firestone's continued support and belief in the future of open-wheel racing. One of the most noticeable results of this agreement is that participants will see an increase in prize money of more than $250,000 throughout the season."

George, the Indy Racing League's founder and CEO, is an avid believer in the driver development system, having once driven in the American Racing Series that was predecessor to Firestone Indy Lights.

"Firestone has been one of the most consistent and loyal suppliers to open-wheel racing; its involvement dates back to even before the very first Indianapolis 500 in 1911," George said. "One association Firestone has supported through the years has been the development series in both CART and the Indy Racing League, which demonstrates its vision and commitment to be part of its future. I am pleased Firestone so strongly supports bringing back the Firestone Indy Lights brand."

Roger Bailey directed Indy Lights before becoming executive director of the Indy Pro Series when it debuted in '02. Bailey, who retains the executive director's position, is delighted to resurrect the Firestone Indy Lights name and tradition.

"Though Firestone has supported the Indy Pro Series since its inception in 2002, this is an expansion of a personal relationship that began nearly 20 years ago," Bailey said. "It's a tremendous feeling to rekindle a program that began in 1991. Firestone has been a great part of my life for many years, and I hope it will continue to be so for many years to come."

About the Firestone Indy Lights:
The Firestone Indy Lights is the premier ladder series for drivers and teams striving to compete in the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Run in conjunction with the IndyCar Series, the Firestone Indy Lights' 16-race schedule features eight races on road courses/street circuits and eight races on ovals, including the famed 2.5-mile circuit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Carburetion Day. Teams compete for nearly $4 million in prize money in cars that are second only in speed to the IndyCar Series at most tracks they visit. The complete Firestone Indy Lights schedule is telecast on ESPN2 in High-Definition and available through live Webcasts. Recent graduates of this fast and cost-effective series include Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt IV, Jay Howard, Alex Lloyd and Hideki Mutoh. For more information on the Firestone Indy Lights, please visit www.indycar.com/indylights.

About Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT): Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT) is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., whose parent company, Bridgestone Corporation, is the world's largest tire and rubber company. BFNT develops, manufactures and markets Bridgestone, Firestone and associate brand tires. The company is focused on wholesale and original equipment markets, supplying passenger, light truck, commercial vehicle, off road, motorcycle, agricultural and other tires to its customers in North America.

Former Indy Lights champions embrace the name change

Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar Series entry, 2000 Dayton Indy Lights champion: "The car combination in Indy Lights was different in my day, but anything you drive that's similar to an Indy car in road, street and oval configurations is going to help. It was a key transition for me and definitely a steppingstone. You need something like that for these (IndyCar Series) team owners to look at when evaluating talent. Without Indy Lights, I never would have made it to the IndyCar Series."

Tony Kanaan, driver of the #11 Andretti Green Racing IndyCar Series entry, 1997 Firestone Indy Lights champion: "I think it's a great idea to bring the name Indy Lights back to racing. I won my first title in America racing in the Indy Lights series, and because of that, I had the opportunity to move on to the next level. I am sure that having a strong name like Firestone Indy Lights on an up-and-coming driver's resume is going to help them in their career as well."

Oriol Servia, driver of the #5 KV Racing Technology IndyCar Series entry, 1999 Dayton Indy Lights champion: "I keep saying over and over how much participating in the Indy Lights series meant for me. Obviously, not just for winning the championship (1999), but for how much I learned. It was a great car, a great championship, a great development series for Indy cars. I came to the States from Europe in 1998, and I didn't know what to expect. I loved the atmosphere, and it is a great place for foreign drivers to start understanding how the U.S. motor racing world works. I liked it so much that I haven't left! That says a lot about how much I liked Indy Lights. Being a champion was great - you look at the other guys who were champions, and I'm proud to be a part of that group."

Firestone Indy Lights Numbers and History

Firestone Prize Money Incentives for Firestone Indy Lights in 2008

Firestone "Repeat" Bonus: $5,000 will be paid to any driver winning multiple races in succession. Bonus will be paid per each accomplishment.

Firestone "Consistency" Bonus: $5,000 will be paid to teams with no DNFs who compete in the entire 2008 season. Paid multiple times if more than one team completes entire season without a DNF.

Firestone "Championship" Bonus: $25,000 will be paid to championship driver and $25,000 will be paid to the championship owner for the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season.

Firestone Indy Lights Legacy Award: Two $5,000 awards will be designated as Firestone Indy Lights Legacy Awards. Details will be announced at a later date.

Firestone "Lucky 3": Drawn for each race, three random finishing positions will receive $2,500/$1,500/$1,000 bonuses paid by finishing order.

"Firestone Image Award": $1,000 will be paid for each event weekend (12). This award will go to the Firestone Indy Lights team best representing Firestone - decals, patches, uniforms, trucks, transporters, etc. Voted on by Firestone Racing personnel.

Firestone Magic Ring: $2,500 (value) ring awarded to the winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Firestone Purse Increases:
$7,500 for each oval event (7 races)
$6,750 for the Firestone Freedom 100
$6,500 for St. Petersburg, Mid-Ohio and Infineon (total of 6 races)
$6,500 for Watkins Glen (total of 2 races)

Overall increase of $264,300 guaranteed, plus additional "repeat" bonuses where applicable.

History of Firestone Indy Lights, Dayton Indy Lights and Indy Pro Series

Firestone Indy Lights champions: 1991-Eric Bachelart; 1992-Robbie Buhl; 1993-Bryan Herta; 1994-Steve Robertson; 1995-Greg Moore; 1996-David Empringham; 1997-Tony Kanaan.

Dayton Indy Lights champions: 1998-Cristiano da Matta; 1999-Oriol Servia; 2000-Scott Dixon; 2001-Townsend Bell.

Indy Pro Series champions: 2002-A.J. Foyt IV; 2003-Mark Taylor; 2004-Thiago Medeiros; 2005-Wade Cunningham; 2006-Jay Howard; 2007-Alex Lloyd.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Robbie Buhl , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Tony George , Alex Lloyd , Roger Bailey , Wade Cunningham , Jay Howard , Greg Moore , Hideki Mutoh , Steve Robertson , Cristiano da Matta , Ed Carpenter , Thiago Medeiros
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology