Although some in the media are wringing their hands and predicting doom and gloom for the IZOD IndyCar Series as the result of Firestone’s announcement late Friday that it would no longer supply tires for the series as of the end of the 2011 season, it doesn’t seem to be bothering a couple of pretty high profile team owners.
I wrote my column for the Toronto Star Wheels section this week on Bobby Rahal’s many Canadian connections (if you missed it, you can read it here) and during the course of our conversation I asked him about what was then a rumour that Firestone might not continue.
In so many words, Rahal said: So what? There are other tire companies out there.
Here is his direct quote.
“You hate to see Firestone go but there will be some other tire company come in. It used to be all Goodyear and they left, so Firestone came in. You hope that they stay in because of continuity but if they go it’s not going to hurt the series.”
Ditto for team owner Brian Stewart, who for many years was the king of the Firestone Indy Lights Series.
Said Stewart on the phone the other day: “Bridgestone (Firestone’s Japanese parent company) left Formula One and it didn’t take long for Pirelli to sign up, did it?
“There are all sorts of tire companies out there. Michelin, Goodyear — hey, Cooper Tires is heavily involved in the INDYCAR ladder system so maybe they’ll bid to build tires for the big cars.”
Rahal and Stewart, if you read between the lines of what they’re saying, seem to suggest that this move is Firestone’s loss — and I’m not the only one who thinks they may be right.
INDYCAR is on the brink of having many, many more eyes on it than has been the case for years. New cars, new engines, more manufacturers and the possibility of much more U.S. TV network exposure means the league is on the cusp of a breakthrough.
So Firestone might be walking away from a racing series just when it would be wisest to be a part of it.
As a friend of mine said in an email: “Having worked for so long to generate a positive image, to squander it now seems like a really poor decision.”