By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — INDYCAR has announced that all four major auto manufacturers involved in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series have announced multi-year extensions with IndyCar racing.
Representatives from Honda, Chevrolet, Firestone and Dallara confirmed that each supplier has signed a multi-year extension to remain with the IndyCar Series for an unspecified amount of years. Each partner has a storied history with IndyCar racing.
For Honda, the extension continues a presence in American open wheel racing that began in 1993 with the formation of Honda Performance Development in preparation for 1994. Art St. Cyr, president of HPD, detailed Honda’s position..
“We have been in open-wheel racing in its various forms for 24 years consistently,” said St. Cyr. “We do that because we believe in the purity of what open-wheel racing represents in North America.
Our parent company, American Honda, believes in what open-wheel racing represents for our brand. We’re very honored to be working with this great group of people to continue this far into the future.”
For Chevrolet, their presence goes back to Gaston Chevrolet winning the 1920 Indianapolis 500 as the younger brother of Louis Chevrolet, founder of the company that bears his name. Chevrolet did not power a car in the Indianapolis 500 until 1986 and Mark Kent, director of motorsports competition for Chevrolet and Cadillac spoke about the company’s perspective.
“Over a hundred years ago, Louis, along with his brother, used the speedway as their proving ground,” said Kent. “Racing has always been a part of Chevrolet’s DNA. We’re excited about the opportunity to continue participating in this sport.”
Dallara’s presence in IndyCar racing began in 1997 with being one of two chassis makers in what was then known as the Indy Racing League but Stefano DePonti, CEO and GM of U.S. Operations sees their commitment as deep as Chevrolet and Honda’s.
“Thanks to IndyCar basically we expanded our business, not only in the racing world, but IndyCar gave us the chance to establish an engineering company in Speedway, Indiana, and develop even more business.
“Together we accomplished a lot of tasks, a lot of goals,” DePonti said.
“We obviously are fully committed. We are fully committed and it is our duty to do our best, to work with IndyCar, and with our partners, to promote the series, to enhance the races, and to make sure that our fans, which they are generating interest all over the world, not only U.S., but also in Europe.”
For Firestone, their involvement in open wheel racing goes back to the first Indianapolis 500 as Ray Harroun won the first 500 on Firestone tires. They have supplied the winning tires for 67 of the 100 Indianapolis 500s and Lisa Boggs, director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports detailed how the extension benefits Firestone.
“That benefits us greatly,” said Boggs. “We can make plans and continue to leverage the sport. It is really a tremendous part of marketing, as I said, the activation, to engage consumers, to talk to them about our passenger tires, to really tell our story in a unique way.”
Both Honda and Chevrolet were adamant that today’s announcement does not shut the door on a third manufacturer coming into the series and that both want to see another manufacturer enter.
“As we’ve worked this multi-year plan, a lot of it has been around trying to get other manufacturers to join the series,” said Kent.
“It’s great competing against Honda. It would be also great to compete against others marketplace competitors.”
St. Cyr felt the same way.
“Even when we were the sole supplier for six years in open-wheel racing, we actively were looking to get more people to compete,” said St. Cyr.
“We want to compete with the other OEMs on the racetrack, as well.”