The IndyCar community was upset when the news came through that Bridgestone Firestone were not going to renew their contract once the contract ended in 2011. IndyCar has been supplied with tires from Firestone since 1996. Negotiations to reach an agreement that both parties were satisfied with took place over a period of a week and a new contract has been finalized that will see Firestone continue to be the tire supplier for IndyCar until 2013.
The thought of bringing in a new tire supplier while trying to launch new cars into the IndyCar racing circuit was a daunting task that was too much to bear for most team owners. They therefore got together as a unit and ask IndyCar to renegotiate with Bridgestone Firestone to see if an agreement could not be reached. Fortunately Firestone was open to discussion and a contract to suit both parties was drawn up.
The new contract will still see Firestone withdraw as a financial sponsor from the IndyCar circuit when the contract expires, and there will be an increase in the price of tires. Al Speyer, the Executive Director of Racing for Bridgestone Firestone, commented: “This was not a negotiation tactic; last Friday, we were done, and I was devastated. But when Randy Bernard called back this week to say the team owners wanted to work something out, we went back to a proposal that had been pre-approved in a way. That made it easier. All we had to do was fine-tune it.”
CEO if IndyCar, Randy Bernard said: “At the end of last week, we had reached the deadline where both organizations had to make a decision regarding the future to prepare our individual operations for the long term. This is one of those decisions that it is imperative that you have the team owners 100 percent behind you. Early this week we called a meeting to walk the team owners through the process and hear their input. I’m happy to say we walk as one with Firestone.”
Firestone agreeing to remain the tire supplier until 2013 will give IndyCar the needed time to look for a suitable replacement and to ensure that the transition will take place smoothly. Even though Firestone is withdrawing from IndyCar, Al Speyer is an avid IndyCar supporter and will remain a fan of the sport.
As millions of auto racing fans shift into high gear for the 91st Indianapolis 500 race on May 27 of 2007, let’s take a moment to reflect back on the humble beginnings of this historic race.
The very first Indy 500 took place a mere 2 years after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909 and was the first major race hosted by race promoters led by track owner Carl G. Fisher. The idea of a 500-mile race had crossed Fisher’s mind earlier, but frequent accidents, injuries and several deaths blamed on the race track’s original tar & gravel surface prompted a major overhaul. Approximately 3.2 million bricks were set into the oval track, from which the nickname “The Brickyard” is derived. The inaugural “International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race” took place on Memorial Day, May 30 of 1911 in front of over 80,000 race fans who paid a mere $1 each to attend.
The race itself was tremendously exciting, regardless of the fact that speeds were low by modern day standards and most cars carried both a driver AND a riding mechanic who also assisted with navigation. The one car without an on-board mechanic was #32, the Marmon “Wasp” driven by 1910 AAA season champion Ray Harroun who came out of retirement to race in the very first Indy 500. Harroun mounted an innovative new device on his bright yellow racer: a “rear view mirror” that allowed him to dispense with the riding mechanic – and a lot of extra weight. Although the official rules mandated the use of a riding mechanic, Harroun appealed and in a decision that provoked heated controversy was allowed to race solo with his dash-mounted mirror.
Flying over the bricks on Firestone tires, Harroun averaged an astounding (for the era) 74.602 miles per hour over the 500 miles. When the checkered flag was waved, Harroun was declared the first winner of a race that was shortly to become an American tradition. Notably, Harroun never raced again, nor did his yellow “Wasp” which may be viewed today in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.