Indy cars will ride on another tire brand in 2012

March 5, 2011

The Firestone brand is retiring from the IndyCar Series after a 21-year run.

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC (BATO) and IndyCar have mutually agreed to allow the Firestone brand sponsorship and supply contract with the sanctioning body’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights series to expire at the end of the 2011 season.

The tire manufacturer admits the decision was a difficult one, but was in line with the company’s goal of ensuring the long-term growth of its business and its brands.

"During our long history in racing we have met or exceeded all of our motorsports goals,” says Al Speyer, executive director of the Firestone Racing division. “So now it’s time to set new goals -- for ourselves and our brands, including Firestone.

"Companies that strive to achieve the highest levels of brand loyalty and recognition must continue to find ever more effective ways to communicate their brand messages. This is part of our process to ensure that we are doing the best we can to support and further strengthen our brands. The Firestone brand has been, is now and will be an extremely important part of our business."

Speyer thanked IndyCar, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the on- and off-track participants in the sport and "our passionate fans" for their support over the years.

"We want to commend IndyCar on the recent positive momentum with new engine manufacturers and other corporate partners coming on board and wish the series continuing success.”

The Firestone brand’s strong connection to the Indianapolis 500 began in 1911, when Ray Harroun won the very first Indianapolis 500 on Firestone tires. The former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. exited open-wheel racing for the first time in 1974.

The Firestone brand’s current open-wheel era began in 1991 with title sponsorship of the Indy Lights series. Firestone Racing made its return to the Indianapolis 500 in 1995, and Firestone tires were on the winning car of the very first IndyCar (then known as the IRL) sanctioned race in 1996.

Of all the wins, championships and milestones achieved throughout the years, the company says its most cherished is that Firestone tires will have equipped 62 of 95 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race winners after this year’s centennial event.

“Even though we’ve announced our decision to retire from IndyCar competition, I want to assure our drivers, teams and fans that Firestone Racing is committed to maintaining the highest standards of performance and support through the 2011 season,” says Speyer. “We are also developing plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, and are looking forward to celebrating our winning partnership and honoring our decades-long relationship as part of this milestone."

Firestone was the official tire of the IndyCar Series.

“It’s unfortunate to lose a great partner and ambassador for the sport like Firestone,” says IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. “We are actively engaged in discussions with other tire manufacturers on opportunities to get involved in our sport as we prepare to debut our new car in 2012.

"As the fastest, most versatile racing series in the world, INDYCAR provides an ideal platform for companies looking to showcase both performance and brand on the track. In fact, Firestone credits its association with our sport in doubling the sales of its street tires in the U.S. during our first five years of partnership.”

Firestone’s entrance back to Indy car racing in the 1990s is credited by many to have energized the company and allowed the brand to take off again. "Firestone credits its association with our sport in doubling the sales of its street tires in the U.S. during our first five years of partnership," adds Bernard.