UPDATE: Firestone & INDYCAR went back to the negotiation table and agreed on a new deal bringing the tire supplier back through 2013.
----------------------------------------------------------------------Firestone, the sole tire supplier for the IZOD IndyCar Series since 2000, will officially withdraw from both the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy lights after the 2011 season.
"It's unfortunate to lose a great partner and ambassador for the sport like Firestone," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. "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."
Although not confirmed, it can only be assumed that Firestone's INDYCAR sponsorship including that of the Firestone Indy Lights, Firestone Tire-ific Move of the Race, Most Popular Driver awards, and various race title sponsorships will end as well.
"During our long history in racing we have met or exceeded all of our motorsports goals," said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing. "So now it's time to set new goals - for ourselves and our brands. 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. We're very excited about our future prospects to grow the Firestone brand."
The move to withdraw this late into the game leaves INDYCAR scrambling for the next generation car in 2012. With testing set to get underway in well under a year, the clock is ticking for a replacement. Possible suppliers could include Goodyear, Hoosier, or Pirelli.
"It has truly been a pleasure to have Firestone as a tire manufacturer since the inception of the IZOD IndyCar Series and we greatly appreciate what they have contributed over the last 15 years and more," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations, INDYCAR. "Firestone has been a great partner and has brought incredible performance and reliability to our sport with their product and for that, we are very grateful. We look forward to a great season with them in 2011 and want to wish everyone associated with the Firestone brand all the best in the future."
Following the 2011 season, Firestone will have won 62 Indianapolis 500's, and 92% of all IZOD IndyCar Series events.
"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," Speyer said. "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. Finally, I'd like to personally thank all of the hard-working individuals who have poured their hearts and souls into making Firestone Racing's endeavors such a successful and rewarding experience over the past 21 years."