Firestone to exit IndyCar Series following 2011 season

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Officials for Tennessee-based Firestone Tire Co. say that, after the 2011 season, the company will no longer provide tires or sponsor the IndyCar Series or its feeder series, the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

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

Motorsports business experts estimated that Firestone pours $7 million annually into marketing the open-wheel series.

Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corp., which owns Firestone, pulled out of Formula One racing following the 2010 season.

The Firestone announcement comes at an inopportune time for the IndyCar Series, which is preparing to introduce a new chassis and engine package for the 2012 season. IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard had hoped Firestone’s tires would provide a stable platform for testing of the new chassis and engine, which is scheduled to start in July.

Firestone’s connection to the Indianapolis 500 began in 1911 when Ray Harroun won the very first race on Firestone tires.

The company’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 its tires were on the winning car of the first IndyCar (then Indy Racing League) sanctioned race in 1996.

Bernard said finding a new tire supplier is a “top priority,” adding that talks with Goodyear, Hoosier Tire, Cooper, Avon, Continental and Pirelli have already begun.

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