AKRON-Racing doesn't get any easier for Goodyear next year with Firestone rolling back into Indy Car racing. But don't expect the sort of controversy that has surrounded the Goodyear-Hoosier tire war in the NASCAR Winston Cup series.
``The Firestone competition will be totally different,'' according to Leo Mehl, Goodyear director of racing. ``Firestone will have the same concern about safety as we do. They're coming back to change their high performance image, so safety is very important.
``The competition with Hoosier is a racing tire competition,'' while with Bridgestone/Firestone it's a ``corporate tire competition,'' he added.
BFS will return the Firestone Firehawk to the Indianapolis 500 and PPG Indy Car racing in 1995. Firestone quit Indy racing after the 1974 season, leaving Goodyear as the sole supplier.
BFS has been running tests since last year in its race-tire development program and is negotiating with race teams, said Al Speyer, motorsports manager. But it isn't releasing its testing times to prevent a tire war with Goodyear.
``We said from the start we won't quote test times because that just promotes a rivalry,'' Mr. Speyer said. ``We don't want to escalate a tire war.''
The Nashville-based tire maker already has made Indy racing a major focus in its Firehawk passenger tire advertising and other promotions, according to the motorsports manager, who admitted BFS has ``a whole lot of image at stake here, with a big retail impact....''
A better image is exactly why Goodyear got involved with racing, Mr. Mehl said. ``When we weren't in racing in the early '60s, consumer perception of our corporation was that we were technically backward, very conservative, our average customer was low-income, 50 years old and lived in a rural area.''
So Goodyear changed its corporate image ``to a youth-oriented, technically competent company. The result was the blimps and the racing program.''