Bridgestone Americas Motorsports has seen some staff changes in the past year due to the retirements of key executives Joe Barbieri and Al Speyer. Though the exact definitions of the roles have changed somewhat, Barbieri’s role has essentially been taken over by Rodreich Stotsenburg, a nearly 20-year veteran of the company, and Speyer’s role has been filled by Lisa Boggs, who became Director of Motorsports when she joined the company last May.
Throughout these changes, a culture has remained that is firmly commitment to motorsports, according to Boggs.
“We are truly very excited about the direction (of IndyCar), even in the recent past announcements, most recently with Verizon,” she says. “It’s terrific what Mark Miles has come in and done.
“I can tell you as someone fresh to it that everyone – from the executives throughout the company and our retail locations, you name it – is very much behind motorsports and understands how important it is to the company and to the brand.”
After Honda decided to drop its funding of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, there was some speculation that Firestone was tapped as a series partner to sponsor the event and keep it going while a more committed title sponsor could be sought. Boggs says this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It is definitely not a stopgap for us,” she says. “When we started talking to the Green Savoree team and then Tim Ramsburger and his team in St. Pete with the opportunity, we really came to realize it made a lot of sense for us for a lot of reasons.
“Obviously, motorsport is a huge part of our brand in our marketing efforts, and an entitlement opportunity with St. Petersburg is tremendous because we’ve had a relationship with them pretty much since day one in varying degrees.
“We have from a business standpoint not only Firestone Complete Auto Care stores but we’ve also got Tires Plus. It is a very key market for them, so that’s an important piece of our business so we could support that fully.
“It just really made sense for us if you look at everything we did and all of our assets, so we were very excited when they came to us. It is a multi-year agreement, so it is something that we’ve invested in and we really look forward to.”
Another aspect of Firestone’s commitment to true partnership made news recently as it was revealed that teams would be allowed to carry unused sets of tires forward to future events.
“That was a conversation that we all were involved in with Derrick Walker and his team,” Boggs says. “We continue to look at the Series and how things progress and how teams operate, and what we can do to continue to provide the most opportunities for the teams strategically in terms of tire decisions and efficiencies with budgets. This is one of those things that we were able to do with them that we think is a step forward to help the teams in a number of areas.”
The relationship isn’t completely selfless for Firestone, of course, but that’s why it works. There’s a reason why Firestone continues to work hard to be an excellent tire partner to IndyCar: the company finds that success in motorsport helps to sell tires.
“Motorsports in general and the passion for it is the ultimate proof point for our products, and the innovation and the technology dates all the way back to Harvey Firestone,” Boggs says. “That is really in the DNA of this company.
“Every generation, every decade that has passed is carried on and built on with that same passion, the same dedication. What it has allowed us to do collectively is really make the best racing tire out there, bar none, and that type of technology and innovation we can then use and translate as we look at what we want to do with passenger tires.
“No other tire manufacturer can take somebody to Indy and talk about the heritage and what we’ve done at the Indianapolis 500.
“If we can make a tire that performs so perfectly on an IndyCar, imagine what we can do.”
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg gets under way this weekend, March 28 to 30, and as always every IndyCar will race on Firestone Firehawk tires. For more information, visit the event’s website at www.gpstpete.com or the Firestone Racing website at www.firestonetire.com/racing.
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