In just four months, the Indianapolis 500 will celebrate a truly historic event. On May 30, it will be exactly 100 years ago that Ray Harroun took his Morman Wasp and won the very first Indianapolis 500.
That Wasp was carried by a set of Firestone tires, which have seen more Indy 500 wins than any other tire. This year, victory lane could be very bittersweet.
Firestone's contract with the series will end after this season. Their deadline to renew their contract was Dec. 31, 2010.
They did not sign a new contract, and Randy Bernard believes that it is going to be extremely difficult to bring them back.
Bernard admitted this week that he is “definitely concerned.” “No doubt; definitely concerned,” he said. Bernard said Firestone officials have told him “what we’re willing to do ‘if’ we come back.”
It seems likely that you can add a new tire supplier to the list of changes coming for the 2012 Izod IndyCar Series.
The biggest change, of course, will be the new cars that the teams will be using.
Also, there will be at least three different engine manufacturers for the sport, as well as new team and driver combinations.
This year's schedule is already far different from year's past, including a new course in Baltimore, and the fact that there will be no oval on the schedule before teams arrive in Indianapolis for the "Month of May" at IMS.
New sponsors will also be a sight to see this year, and moving forward. Shell has already landed with Team Penske, and Helio Castroneves will be sporting a very different look as he zips around IMS this May with a different paint scheme.
Chip Ganassi has doubled his drivers, and now has a very strong four-driver lineup, most notably with the addition of Graham Rahal.
The National Guard sponsored car for Panther Racing will actually have an American behind the wheel this year, as the highly touted J.R. Hildebrand comes up from the IndyLights Series.
Dan Wheldon seems likely to end up back at Andretti Autosport, (Formerly AGR) but we will have to wait and see for sure on that one.
With all of the rich history and tradition that Firestone has in this sport, it is hard to imagine them not in it anymore after this year.
Not only do they have tremendous respect and confidence of all of the teams in the sport, but they have some nice commercials with the series as well.
Perhaps that doesn't matter to most people, but the relationship between the company and the sport is one of the oldest ones out there today.
With change comes a new beginning though.
There will be multiple companies ready to jump in and take the spot held by Firestone.
The series will consider many of them, and ultimately make the best decision for the sport. The safety and reliability of the tires will be the top priority.