It’s officially summer, and for many of our teammates summer and auto racing go hand in hand. It has been a very exciting season for our motorsports program, beginning this past March. You may recall that we were initially unable to reach an agreement for a contract extension, and we announced that 2011 would be our last year as the sole tire supplier to IndyCar. Then something truly remarkable happened. The drivers and owners insisted that they had to race on Firestone — that no other tire would do. So IndyCar decided to accept our last offer, which we agreed to honor. What an incredible statement about the quality and performance of our Firestone race tires. Thanks to Page Mader, General Manager, Race Tire Development, BATO; Al Speyer, Executive Director, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports, and the entire race tire team for doing such an exceptional job. Together, they are the best team in all of racing!
Along with the announcement of the extension of our IZOD IndyCar Series contract through 2013, there was another reason to celebrate this year – the centennial anniversary of the Indianapolis 500®. For 100 years now, the fastest race car drivers in the world have gathered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May to put on what is known as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing™” – the Indy 500. And our Firestone brand was there day one, when Ray Harroun won the very first Indy 500 on Firestone tires in 1911. Over the years, Firestone tires have equipped more Indy 500-winning drivers than all other tire manufacturers combined. This year, Dan Wheldon took a stunning last-lap victory to become the 62nd driver in history to cross the yard of bricks at the finish line first on our product, and we are proud of that accomplishment.
Such an outstanding record does not happen without a tremendous amount of hard work. From our Race Tire Development group in Akron, to the teammates in race tire manufacturing, to our administrative and management motorsports staff in Nashville and Akron, it takes a great deal of time, effort and resources to support our participation in racing and allow us to be a part of this amazing show for the hundreds of thousands of fans at IMS and the millions of television viewers around the world.
Over and over again, we heard from the drivers that they never worry about their Firestone tires, which allows them to focus their full attention on driving at speeds more than 220 mph. Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon visited our hospitality chalet after the race and shared his feelings about our company and our tires. “Certainly without great partners like Firestone, doing what we do wouldn’t be possible, and it wouldn’t be as much fun,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to be in IZOD IndyCar Series cars now since 2002, and Firestones are all I’ve ever driven on. I certainly feel safer because of that. There’s absolutely no doubt – there’s no other tire company out there that can give us what we need to be able to do these speeds around this speedway as consistently and as safely as Firestone.”