By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
The only components of a racing car designed to purposefully make contact with the racing surface are the tires. That’s why they are so critical to a race car’s performance. But don’t take this author’s word for it, Mario Andretti’s opinion would be the more important one.
“There’s no element of a race car that’s more important than the tires. I think you can fix the aerodynamics, you can fix the suspension technology, so on and so forth, but you cannot afford to have issues with the tires.”
Andretti was known for years as a Firestone driver competing against Goodyear-shod drivers such as A.J. Foyt. With tire wars being a thing of the past, Firestone announced their continued involvement with INDYCAR as sole tire supplier of the NTT IndyCar Series through the 2025 season.
The announcement shows the strength of the Firestone-INDYCAR partnership. No other partner has committed for as long as Firestone has and it’s clear from driver reactions that there is universal praise.
“I’ve been very lucky that my whole INDYCAR career and Indy Lights career, for that matter, have been on Firestones,” said Carpenter. “It’s not anything that I’ve ever really had to think about. Like Mario said, there’s been a couple moments in time where there was a blip on the radar of someone else getting involved, but I’ve always been thankful.
“I was thankful on the last extension and even more thankful this extension, with it being as long as it is, that we don’t have to worry about it.”
Other drivers have had similar praise.
Can’t say enough about @FirestoneRacing’s commitment to performance and driver safety. Best of the best. Great news to have @FirestoneTires onboard with @IndyCar through 2025! #IndyCar pic.twitter.com/btwE4EqegF
— Ryan Hunter-Reay (@RyanHunterReay) February 6, 2019
The good news keeps coming out of the @IndyCar camp! @FirestoneRacing on board until 2025! There are few elements that have had a bigger effect on safety and the quality of racing than our tires. Thanks for the commitment and the great tires. pic.twitter.com/UBSfNhSp5D
— James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown) February 6, 2019
— Zach Veach (@ZachVeach) February 6, 2019
One of the biggest takeaways is how little negativity is levied toward Firestone. While in other championships some drivers have blamed the tire supplier for supplying what might be a less than ideal product, Firestone has made a product very well matched to the cars.
This is in comparison to when Continental was the primary tire supplier of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The same tires for the Daytona Prototypes were also used on the LMP2 cars that were brought in for the Prototype class and the LMP2 cars struggled a bit, as did the DP cars after being sped up to match with the LMP2 machines. Add to that the fact that the Michelin tires in the GTLM field were amazing in the wet, so much so that a Porsche 911 actually scored the overall win at the 2015 Petit Le Mans.
Having a partner commit themselves to such a long term agreement also solidifies a decent-sized portion of a team’s operating budget. They’ll know about how much a tire bill would be for a year since there won’t be new competition in that technical arena.
Between Acura announcing their Long Beach sponsorship, NBC announcing their NBC Gold package for 2019, Firestone announcing their sponsorship of the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, REV Group announcing their sponsorship of the Race at Road America, NTT announcing their title sponsorship of the series and Firestone’s announcement on Wednesday, there’s a ton of momentum building heading into the last bit of preseason testing before St. Petersburg.
Now if only we could speed things up by a few weeks.