After delivering a body-blow to the IZOD IndyCar Series with its announcement last week that it would end its role as a tire supplier at the conclusion of the 2011 season, Firestone abruptly changed course Friday, saying that an agreement has been reached allowing it to continue as a supplier to IndyCar – although not to Indy Lights – through at least the 2013 season.
"Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC and IndyCar have announced that Firestone will continue to serve as the sole tire supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series through the 2013 race season," Firestone said in a statement.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said the new deal followed meetings with IndyCar team owners that showed unanimous support for working with Firestone to renew the tire supply deal.
"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," said Bernard. "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.
"We feel that this new supply agreement will benefit everyone. It provides a proven safe and reliable Firestone product for the transition to the all-new cars for 2012. We have to thank everyone at Firestone for working with us to help ensure the best for the long-term growth of our sport."
Team owner Dennis Reinbold cheered the announcement.
"IndyCar called a meeting to inform the team owners of Firestone's departure," he related "When we learned of this, we encouraged IndyCar to check with Firestone to see if there might be any chance to continue. We feel that it is important to maintain continuity with their excellent tires as we transition to the new car for 2012. The team owners are collectively very relieved that Firestone had an open mind and that they were able to reach this agreement with IndyCar. Firestone racing tires are not only important from a safety and reliability standpoint, but they contribute greatly to the wheel-to-wheel competition for which our sport is famous."
"We are pleased that we were able to reach this agreement with IndyCar," added Al Speyer, executive director, Firestone Racing. "As we prepare to celebrate our involvement in the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, we are also focused on the future and the great opportunities that lie ahead. While we've reached the pinnacle of success in the IndyCar racing, we're happy to extend our relationship with the IZOD IndyCar Series through 2013, and to continue our winning partnership. Meanwhile, we will continue to evaluate all options for promoting the Firestone brand inside and outside of motorsports, as the Firestone brand is a very important part of our business."
Firestone has supplied tires to the IZOD IndyCar Series since 1996. The new agreement does not include Firestone Indy Lights, although Firestone will remain as title sponsor and tire supplier of the development series through 2011.