AKRON-Racing anyone? Between May 26 and June 2, more than 100 drivers had competed over 1,200 miles of track in the inaugural U.S. 500, the Miller 200 and the famed Indianapolis 500.
The two days certainly excited race fans across the country, but they also elated some Firestone tire dealers who said the company's return to Indycar competition is driving tire sales up.
``I'm tickled to death over the results Firestone is having in Indycar racing. They've accomplished a lot in a short period of time,'' said Brooks Swentzel, owner of S*&*S Tire in Lexington, Ky.
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., in only its second season since taking a 21-year hiatus from Indycar racing, has had a strong showing to date. Firestone Firehawks still have a commanding lead over Goodyear Eagles with a combined8-2 record in the Indy Racing League and PPG Indy Car World Series, the two racing series for Indycars.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker improved its record May 26 as the Firehawk-shod cars piloted by Jimmy Vasser and Buddy Lazier won the U.S. 500 and the Indy 500 respectively.
Goodyear, however, fought back June 2 by sending Michael Andretti to the winner's circle on Eagle-brand racing tires at the Miller 200 in Milwaukee.
The May 26 weekend wasn't a bust for Goodyear, either.
The Akron-based tire maker produced tires on six of the top 10 cars-including five of the top six-at Indianapolis and seven of the top 10 at the U.S. 500.
``This is the most excited I've been since my son's baseball team played in the state championship a few years ago,'' said Larry Morgan, president of Don Olson Tire & Auto Centers, Clearwater, Fla. ``I've been with Firestone for over 30 years and remember well the glory days at Indy-we used to wear checkered shirts around that time. We got out and now are back experiencing tremendous success. It's like we've come full circle and I love it.''
Much of the dealer excitement comes from increased sales. BFS has claimed sales of its Firestone brand jumped 20 percent after it returned to Indycar racing.
``Firestone's win in the Indy 500 and its success this season is just fantastic. This is a great experience-not only does this help sales, but it energizes you,'' said Jim Matthews of Merchant's Inc., Manassas, Va.
Following the Indy 500, Ron Hemelgarn of Hemelgarn Racing, which owns Mr. Lazier's ride praised the team's tires.
``The Firestone tires made the difference for us today. They were safe and fast-just great,'' he said.