Firestone Extends Indycar Partnership Through 2025; Building Race Tire Facility

I never think of Indycar without envisioning a car with Firestone tires. Firestone tires have been synonymous with Indycar it seems like forever. The tire has been on the winning car at the Indianapolis 500 69 times, including the first race in 1911. That relationship remains with today’s news.

Firestone will continue as the sole tire supplier to the NTT Indycar Series through 2025. The announcement of the new deal came at the Dallara Factory in Speedway this morning. In addition, Firestone is building a new state of the art manufacturing facility for Indycar tires in Akron. The building, the Advanced Tire Production Center (ATPC) should produce its first tire in late 2020.

“Champions have relied on Firestone tires for more than a century, and racing has always been the ideal proving ground for new technologies that help us evolve and advance our company’s passenger tire offerings,” said Philip Dobbs, chief marketing officer, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “As the NTT IndyCar Series continues gaining momentum, we are introducing new fans to the Firestone brand and strengthening our relationship with the drivers who use our durable, dependable Firestone tires.”

 

Ralph Hubbard, Creator of the HANS Device

Hubbard and his brother-in-law, Jim Downing, created the device in an effort to save drivers’ lives by protecting their heads and necks from the violent jolting in accidents. Their research began in the early 80’s. Indycar was the first series to adopt the device and Formula 1 made it compulsory in 2003. The HANS Device was optional in NASCAR, but after Dale Earnhardt’s death in the Daytona 500, it soon became mandatory.

Drivers and fans are thankful to Dr. Hubbard for work and inventing what is now taken for granted as a part of a driver’s equipment. Many lives have been saved with this attachment.

Indy Qualifying Changes?

The Pit Window has learned that an official announcement about the qualifying format for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will come either at the end of this week or early next week. Some tweaks to the current format are expected. I will share my thoughts on the new procedures next week. I hope more  changes may be on the way for 2020.

Testing Begins

Weather Tech Raceway hosts the first Indycar test of 2019 Friday. Most of the projected grid will be there. Official Spring training begins Tuesday at COTA. The Tuesday session will be live streamed on Indycar,com.

The entry list for Weather Tech Raceway:

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Acura Sponsors Long Beach Grand Prix

Today Acura became the official title sponsor of the Long Beach Grand Prix, Indycar’s second longest running event behind the Indianapolis 500. The Honda brand replaces Toyota, which had sponsored the race for 44 years. Toyota’s tenure was the longest event entitlement in history. The race will be called the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Racing in Long Beach began with a Formula 5000 race in 1975. From 1976-1983 Formula 1 took to the streets. Beginning in 1984, CART began racing. The event has been an Indycar race since then.

Per Adam Stern, this is a multi year deal in the low seven figures annually. It is Acura’s single largest motorsports marketing expenditure

The Honda name serves as sponsor of races at barber Motorsports Park, Toronto, and Mid Ohio.

Iowa is the only race which had a title sponsor last year still seeking a replacement. The Indycar Grand Prix at IMS lost its sponsor two years ago and has not yet found a new one.

The full press release below. I will return tomorrow with thoughts on today’s Indy 500 qualifying schedule release and a few other tidbits.

Acura Announced as Title Sponsor!

The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach announced today that it has reached a multi-year agreement with Acura to become title sponsor of the Grand Prix of Long Beach starting in 2019.

The 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place April 12-14, 2019.

Launched in 1986 as the first Japanese luxury automotive brand, Acura is a leading nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance – a commitment to evocative styling, high performance and innovative engineering, all built on a foundation of quality and reliability.  Both Acura and its American Honda parent have their U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California.

Last year, Acura made a successful return to the top level of sports car racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, fielding two entries in the Prototype class with Team Penske. The driver combinations of Juan Pablo Montoya/Dane Cameron and Helio Castroneves/Ricky Taylor finished fifth and seventh overall in the championship, with Montoya recording the first pole for the new Acura ARX-05 at Long Beach.  Acura also continues to have entries in the series’ GTD class with the NSX GT3 Evo, and has accomplishments at all levels of sports car racing.

Honda has a long, winning history with Indy cars at Long Beach. Honda-powered drivers have won six of the last 10 Grands Prix – and 13 times in 19 appearances – including last year with Alexander Rossi.  Native Californian Jimmy Vasser scored Honda’s first Long Beach victory in 1996, with other Honda-powered winners including Alex Zanardi (1997-98), Michael Andretti (2002), Dario Franchitti (2009), Takuma Sato (2013) and James Hinchcliffe (2017).

“With our U.S. headquarters nearby in Torrance, this is a true ‘home’ event for the Acura brand,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president and general manager.  “The Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of North America’s premier motorsports events, and an institution in Southern California.  Acura is delighted and proud to be associated with the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and we look forward to a long and successful partnership.”

“This is truly the start of a new era in the history of the Grand Prix,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “As we enter our 45th year of conducting America’s #1 street race, we are looking forward with great enthusiasm to this new partnership with a premium luxury brand like Acura. Together we will explore new ways to elevate the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to greater heights in the coming years.”

Featuring a wide variety of on- and off-track activities for the entire family, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be headlined by the NTT IndyCar Series, as well as the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix, featuring the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In addition, the weekend will feature the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge under the lights on Friday and Saturday nights, Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks, the powerful sports cars of the Pirelli GT4 America series and the Historic IMSA GTO Challenge.

Fans can select and pay for their Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach tickets, parking and paddock passes online at gplb.com, or place orders by calling the toll-free ticket hotline, (888) 827-7333.  A printed ticket brochure that includes a circuit map, ticket prices, order form and other information is also available.

Fans can also follow the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Facebook at GrandPrixLB, Twitter @GPLongBeach and Instagram at GPLongBeach.

About Acura

Acura is a leading automotive luxury nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance – a commitment to evocative styling, high performance and innovative engineering, all built on a foundation of quality and reliability. The Acura lineup features six distinctive models – the RLX premium luxury sedan, the TLX performance luxury sedan, the ILX sport sedan, the five-passenger RDX luxury crossover SUV, the seven-passenger Acura MDX, America’s all-time best-selling three-row luxury SUV, and the next-generation, electrified NSX supercar.

Five of the six models in the Acura lineup are made in central Ohio, using domestic and globally-sourced parts, including the ILX and TLX luxury sports sedans (Marysville Auto Plant), the RDX and MDX luxury SUVs (East Liberty Auto Plant) and the Acura NSX supercar, which is built to order at the Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio.

Additional media information including pricing, features & specifications and high-resolution photography is available at AcuraNews.com. Consumer information is available at Acura.com. Follow Acura on social media at Acura.us/SocialChannels.

 

IMS Extended Version of Super Bowl Ad

Indianapolis Motor Speedway shared an extended version of the ad run only in Indiana on their website. The longer spot runs 1:17 rather than the 30 second version shown during the Super Bowl. The extended ad can be viewed at IMS.com/May. Scroll down the page a ways to find it. I will try to get it on this page tomorrow and update

 

Gainbridge Becomes Presenting Sponsor of Indianapolis 500- The Story and Some Thoughts

Indycar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continued their momentum with today’s announcement of Gainbridge as the presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500. The four year deal was announced by Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles at the track this afternoon.

Gainbridge is a part Group 1001, which has a multiyear sponsorship agreement with driver Zach Veach, who drives for Andretti Autosport. Gainbridge will be the primary sponsor on his number 26 car this coming season.

Gainbridge is an online financial services platform which has $37 billion in assets. they currently operate in Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey with plans to be in other states this year.

They were also the presenting sponsor for the Indiana Women in Tech LPGA tournament held at the Brickyard Crossing in 2018.

Like Speedway, which became the official fuel and convenience stores of the NTT Indycar Series, Group 1001 is an Indiana based company with a national reach.

Quick Thoughts

Indycar and IMS have put together two sponsorship deals within a month, an incredible accomplishment for any series.

This is the second company which sponsors a car to expand their involvement to the series or the 500.  It is great to see that these commitments are genuine and long term.

I like that the Gainbridge name on the new logo is separated from the race logo. The Penn Grade name was too much a part of the race logo for my taste. I could live without the “#This Is May” hashtag on the emblem.

The best news of all- cars will be on track in just eight days!

Wickens Pedals Stationary Bike Unassisted

 

Daly, Air Force Join Andretti for Indy 500

Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Conor Daly will drive a fifth car with sponsorship from the U. S. Air Force in the103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. The Air Force will also be an associate sponsor on the  Andretti cars of Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Zach Veach for the entire season. Daly will carry number 25.

Daly drove in the 2018 500 with Air Force sponsorship as part of Dale Coyne’s team. He started last and finished 21st, completing 199 laps. This will be Daly’s sixth 500. His rookie season was 2013. He returned to the 500 in 2015. His best starting spot was 22nd in 2015. Last year was his best finish and also the race in which he completed the most laps. This is the best car and team Daly will have had for the race.

“It’s my best shot at at the race ever. I can’t wait to get to work,” Daly said.

Michael Andretti said they are working on a few things to possibly get Daly in more races this year. He has no plans to add a sixth ca for this year’s 500 entry list.

Daly drove in just one race, Mid Ohio, for Harding. He was competitive, giving Harding its best starting spot to that point.  He ran well in the race but ran out fuel with two laps left and finished 20th. In2017 Daly drove full time for A. J. Foyt Racing.

Catching Up with Indycar News

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Vasser Sullivan and Dale Coyne have signed a multi year agreement which has Sebastien Bourdais staying in car 18.  Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan became a partnership last year. Nice to see Coyne will have some driver stability and additional resources. Bourdais won the 2018 opening race in St. Pete. It was his second consecutive win in his hometown race.

More Boost at Iowa, Gateway

The NTT Indycar Series announced cars will receive increased boost at short ovals Iowa and Gateway in 2019. The higher boost will necessitate more braking in the turns, which should allow more passing. The boost will increase to 150 kPa, the same as on road and street courses. In 2018 cars were allowed 140 kPa on the short ovals. Superspeedway boost for races is 130Pa. Please do not ask me what kPa means.

Allen Miller of HPD says the goal of 90 horsepower for the new 2.4 liter engine is “very realistic.”

The series continues to seek more ways to improve the racing.  This measure sounds like a bridge to the higher horsepower in the 2021 formula.

Helio at Le Mans?

Three timne Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves is close to finalizing a deal to drive in the Le Mans 24 hour race this year. Castroneves, who now drives full time for Team Penske Acura in the IMSA Weather Tech Championship, will drive for the RLR group in the LMP2 class. The team uses an Oreca 07 chassis, which has been dominant in Europe.

Castroneves was one of the drivers in the third place car at last weekend’s Rolex 24.

Indianapolis 500 Ticket Unveiled

Last Indianapolis Motor Speedway revealed the design for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. I’m always excited to see the new ticket. This year’s design I find disappointing. The photo of Will Power that was used is okay, but a photo of him when he first go out of the car would have been better. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a driver express that much unbridled joy after winning.

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Rolex 24 Post Script

I’ll end today with four photos from last weekend’s Rolex 24

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This pretty much sums up Sunday morning.

 

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Just Announced

Indianapolis Motor Speedway  just announced a press conference tomorrow  afternoon for a major announcement regarding the 500. I’m guessing a presenting sponsor will be named.