Speyer to drive Firestone Freedom 100 pace car
To honor his 35th anniversary with Bridgestone Americas, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Firestone Indy Lights have announced that Al Speyer, executive director, Firestone Racing, will drive the official pace car for the 2009 Firestone Freedom 100 on Friday, May 22 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 40-lap race is the marquee event for the Firestone Indy Lights, the essential stepping stone for drivers and teams striving to compete in the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
"This is both an honor and a responsibility," Speyer said. "To drive a pace car at any Firestone Indy Lights race is an exciting opportunity, but the fact that it's the Firestone Freedom 100 at the track that helped make the Firestone brand famous makes it incredibly special for me. I had the opportunity to practice with Johnny Rutherford in preparation for this event - what an experience that was!
"I want to thank Phil Pacsi, vice president, Consumer Tire Marketing, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO); Roger Bailey, Tony Cotman and Brian Barnhart from the Indy Racing League and Joie Chitwood of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Speyer has been a well-known face at tracks across the globe for most of his 35 years with the company. Now a seasoned veteran of the motorsports industry, he began his career with the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company after graduating from Syracuse University in 1974 with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. His motorsports career began in 1984, when he was promoted from senior project engineer in the technical testing area to manager of race tire development.
In 1992, Speyer was named manager of motorsports for the company. The following year, Speyer was tapped to manage the return of the Firestone brand to the top forms of American open-wheel racing after a 20-year hiatus. Under his management, the Bridgestone Firestone Motorsports program quickly dominated in American open-wheel racing.
Speyer was promoted to director of motorsports, and in 2001 was named executive director of motorsports for Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BATO). In addition to directing the company's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights programs, he also oversees the company's motorcycle and karting activities, as well as all aspects of the company's motorsports involvement, including marketing and promotion.
In addition to those responsibilities, Speyer serves on the board of directors for both CARA Charities and the Indy Family Foundation, Inc., as well as the board of trustees for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Speyer is no stranger to the nuances of the sport from behind the wheel. During his early years with the company, he balanced weekday work with his weekend racing activities, competing in Sports Car Club of America competitions.
"Al Speyer is one of the most passionate supporters of open-wheel racing," said Joie Chitwood, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief operating officer. "His longtime dedication has helped to create so many positive developments for the sport, its teams, competitors and fans, so it's only fitting Al will be behind the wheel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the pace car driver for the Firestone Freedom 100."
Said Roger Bailey, Firestone Indy Lights executive director: "Without Al Speyer's support and dedication, the Firestone Indy Lights as we know it today would not have existed. I can't think of a better person to pace our most important race, the Firestone Freedom 100, than him."