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Firestone back to sponsor Long Beach race
Firestone Tires -- the Official Tire of the 35th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach -- are making a comeback on the city's streets April 16-19, the site of the legendary brand's official return to the American open wheel racing scene 18 years ago.

In 1991, the Firestone brand began its journey back to prominence in Indy car racing after an extended hiatus through its title sponsorship of the Firestone Indy Lights series.  The first 1991 race was at Long Beach and - ironically enough -- it was won by current IndyCar Series team owner Eric Bachelart (Conquest Racing), who went on to capture the 1991 series title.

"This year will mark the 14th consecutive year that a Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) brand will serve as the official tire of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach," said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing.  "It will be great to once again see the red Firestone name on the bridge between turns 9 and 10, and alongside the track."

"The Bridgestone/Firestone brand has been a part of our sponsor family extending back to our Formula One days," said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. "We are delighted at the opportunity to profile the Firestone name to our Southern California audience."

Long Beach is also the site of another significant "first" in BATO's racing history, as it was at the 2004 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that Bridgestone Motorsport introduced the alternate tire concept to the racing world.  The program caught on and was employed at all Champ Car World Series races, and was later adapted for use in the FIA Formula One World Championship. 

Firestone Racing is bringing the alternate tire program to all road and street course events on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule, with each car allotted a minimal number of "softer," faster specification tires (easily identifiable by their red sidewalls),  making for intriguing and dramatic strategy decisions as teams decide when and how long to use each primary and alternate spec during qualifying and the race.

"For many reasons, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach holds a special place in our racing heritage," Speyer added.  "Add to that history the festivities and pageantry surrounding the 2009 weekend, and you have the recipe for a world-class race of which Firestone Racing is truly proud to be a part."

Admission to all activities is FREE on Thurs., April 16. Admission prices for Friday through Sunday have not changed from 2008, and range from $25 for a Friday-only general admission ticket to $125 for a three-day ticket, which includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating on upper levels of the grandstands. Pre-paid parking packages are also available.

In addition to the downtown walk-up service, tickets can be ordered via credit card by using the toll-free ticket hotline, (888) 82-SPEED. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.gplb.com or at Ticketmaster outlets.  Handicapped seating, IndyCar Paddock Passes, Super Photo tickets and a wide variety of hospitality club packages are also available.

A ticket brochure and Fan Guide that includes circuit map, ticket prices and order form can also be obtained by calling the hotline.

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