BROOKLYN, Mich.-It happened. It finally happened. Scott Pruett took the checkered flag last Sunday in the Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway, giving Firestone tires their first IndyCar win in two decades.
``It's been 21 years. It's definitely a credit to our employees and everyone associated with the program,'' said a Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. spokesman.
Goodyear won the first 12 races of the season, dampening Firestone's return to the circuit after a 21-year hiatus.
But Mr. Pruett, who edged out Goodyear user Al Unser Jr. by 0.056 seconds, gave Firestone its first win since Al Unser Sr. won on the same track on Sept. 15, 1974, the BFS spokesman said.
``We have far exceeded expectations,'' he said. ``We've been competitive in just about every race.''
The victory, which was Mr. Pruett's first in IndyCar and the second-closest finish in IndyCar history, proves the Firestone tires' competitiveness.
``We can compete with Goodyear anywhere in IndyCar,'' said the spokesman, adding that a victory was ``just a matter of time.*.*.*.*We only field six cars, so the numbers are against us. If we'd had more cars in the field, we would have already had a checkered flag.''
Bridgestone/Firestone's priority, he added, is to have three or four more competitive teams running on Firestone tires next season.
``There are some very competitive teams watching us closely right now,'' he said.
With four races left in the 17-race IndyCar season, both companies are confident their tires will perform well.
Stu Grant, director of racing tire sales and marketing for Goodyear, said that despite not winning at Michigan Speedway, Goodyear has had a very good season.
``We've done an excellent job. You can't win every race, but we sure try,'' he said. ``I'm optimistic about winning the rest of the season.''
But not if Bridgestone/Firestone can help it.
``We feel like we're capable of winning any of the races we have left,'' the spokesman said. ``It's just a matter of putting it all together and having a little luck.''
Even though the competition between Firestone and Goodyear will be very intense, the BFS spokesman said, there is a lot of respect between the two companies.
``I can't imagine there being, or ever being, any ill feelings toward one another,'' he said. ``It's just not like that. It's not like that at all.
``Us returning to racing makes Goodyear better and makes us better. It's better for IndyCar, and in the long run, the technology transfers to the consumer. Everybody wins in a roundabout way.''