Most of the 2012 State of IndyCar was spent lauding 2011 winners and featuring interactions between drivers and event emcees, but several newsworthy items came out of the second series address the IZOD IndyCar Series held.
Firestone, the single tire supplier, confirmed it will remain in IndyCar through the 2014 season. Additionally, Firestone remains as title sponsor and tire provider to the Firestone Indy Lights Series – which had expired after 2011 and had not been officially confirmed until this evening. As part of the agreement, negotiations are already under way to extend the IndyCar sponsorship and supply contract beyond 2014.
“As the IZOD IndyCar Series ushers in a new era of competition in 2012 and beyond with the new Dallara DW12 and engine diversity, Firestone Racing is pleased to continue supplying our world-class racing tires to each and every car on the grid for at least the next three years,” said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing (ABOVE, LEFT). “And, as we look to identify the next generation of IZOD IndyCar Series stars, Firestone Indy Lights drivers will continue to hone their craft on Firestone Firehawk race tires for another season.”
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard, who addressed many of the storylines and potential challenges in the lead-up to this season's opener at St. Petersburg in a recent interview with RACER Editor David Malsher, ended the night with a pointed, confident message about the series' future and an attempt to deflect criticism.
“There were critics who said IndyCar was heading for doomsday and that the series would be out of business within two years. It just had one of the best financial years in its history,” he said. “We heard some snickering about the new car from the ICONIC committee, but we're very proud to say we have Honda, Chevy and Lotus here tonight.
“We faced doubt over the size of our field, having only 18 cars amid the economy. But, wrong again. We are very excited to have a minimum of 26 cars compete in IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012,” he added. “There's also been constant speculation about me. I will be with IndyCar as long as the Hulman-George family wants me. I will keep that promise I made when they gave me this opportunity. No one could deny we haven't made mistakes. We have. But our goal is to better it, and make it stronger. Let's sit back, buckle up and hold on tight, because 2012 promises to be a hell of a ride.”
Among the goals Bernard and new IndyCar chief operating officer Marc Koretzky outlined in their respective presentations were increasing both viewership and attendance by 15 percent, rebuilding and relaunching the IndyCar.com website (to be done in two phases, the first complete by St. Petersburg), and a new technology called “augmenting reality,” which will feature car tracking technology on mobile devices as if fans were on pit lane. The latter project will be developed in partnership with Gravity Jack.
Commercial partnerships were revealed between IndyCar and three additional companies, Discover Network, Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka and Lids Sports Group.
IndyCar has entered into multi-year agreements with Discover Network and First Bankcard, a division of the First National Bank of Omaha, to offer a credit card program designed to provide rewards to the sport's fans. Fuzzy's will serve as Official Vodka of the IndyCar and Indy Lights Series. Lids' Clubhouse division will manage the online and trackside merchandising.
Other news and notes revealed earlier in the day in breakout meetings were touched on, if not necessarily elaborated on, during the one-hour, 30-minute presentation.
Dario Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden all received several honors and awards. Franchitti was formally presented the new Aster Trophy for his fourth IndyCar title, while Indy Lights champion Newgarden received both the Firestone Firehawk Cup for that title and the Greg Moore Legacy Award. Hinchcliffe, a former Moore award winner, received both the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award and Tony Renna Rising Star Award.