Firestone Brand To Exit INDYCAR After 2011 Season

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC (BATO) announced today that it has mutually agreed with INDYCAR to allow its Firestone brand sponsorship and supply contract with the sanctioning body's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights to expire at the end of the 2011 season.

The partnership between the Firestone brand and INDYCAR has been one of the most successful in all of motorsports. And while this was a very difficult decision, it is in line with the company's goal of ensuring the long-term growth of its business and its brands, including Firestone.

"During our long history in racing we have met or exceeded all of our motorsports goals," said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing. "So now it's time to set new goals – for ourselves and our brands. Companies that strive to achieve the highest levels of brand loyalty and recognition must continue to find ever more effective ways to communicate their brand messages. This is part of our process to ensure that we are doing the best we can to support and further strengthen our brands. The Firestone brand has been, is now and will be an extremely important part of our business. We're very excited about our future prospects to grow the Firestone brand.

"I would like to express our deep appreciation for the support we have received from INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the participants in the sport and our passionate fans. We want to commend INDYCAR on the recent positive momentum with new engine manufacturers and other corporate partners coming on board and wish the series continuing success," Speyer concluded

The Firestone brand's strong connection to the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race began in 1911, when Ray Harroun won the very first Indianapolis 500 on Firestone tires. The Firestone brand's current open-wheel era began in 1991 with title sponsorship of the Indy Lights series. Firestone Racing made its return to the Indianapolis 500 in 1995, and Firestone tires were on the winning car of the very first INDYCAR (then IRL)-sanctioned race in 1996. Firestone is the only tire manufacturer to have participated in each and every INDYCAR event. Of all the wins, championships and milestones achieved throughout the years, perhaps the most noteworthy and the company's most cherished is that Firestone tires will have equipped 62 of 95 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race winners – more than all other tire manufacturers combined – after this year's centennial event.

"Even though we've announced our decision to retire from INDYCAR competition, I want to assure our drivers, teams and fans that Firestone Racing is committed to maintaining the highest standards of performance and support through the 2011 season," Speyer continued. "We are also developing plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, and are looking forward to celebrating our winning partnership and honoring our decades-long relationship as part of this milestone. Finally, I'd like to personally thank all of the hard-working individuals who have poured their hearts and souls into making Firestone Racing's endeavors such a successful and rewarding experience over the past 21 years."

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