Indy Hump Day Report, On the bubble: Rubber

Firestone, “Should I stay or should I go?”

If they go (for the INDYCAR Series) it may be trouble, and if they stay (for Firestone management) it will be double. “So come on and let (you) know” should they stay or should they go?

Well to be honest while they have been a good promoter of the Series and Indianapolis 500 over the last several years. They are not the sole force. IZOD has run far more advertising over the last two years than Firestone. (Not to mention Firestone uses the semi-dishonest ads about their success at the 500. I mean it has been years since any other make competed there.)

While many have referred to them having a “great safety record” what does this mean? Has no driver had a blow out that led to an accident? NOPE! We have seen plenty of cut tires that led to a short day for many drivers.

I guess maybe it means they have not made extremely bad tires like Goodyear has for NASCAR. That is like bragging you can write better than an illiterate person. Not to take away all the great things Firestone has done. They have been a great partner the last few seasons. (Mainly being the longest title sponsor for the sanctioning body’s ladder series.)

But right around the time Firestone’s PR/Media Relations team spun the exclusive deal with then “IndyCar” as a plus for the company. Firestone was embattled in a major controversy over SUV rollovers, most notably blow outs on Ford Explorers. (And while the Explorer’s design was a major factor, as was the interest of rival Goodyear in scooping up Ford.)

Firestone suffered a massive hit to consumers trust. This has equaled in a steady decline of sales over this last decade. Not only has their share of the street car market place been hurt, so has their “Car Care Centers” around the nation. In the last 5 years they have had major layoffs and closings of these centers. (Granted many just became absorbed by other chains too.)

So while it may be sad to see Firestone go after 2011, no one should be shocked. Clearly even with the loyalty from Open Wheel fans, the bottom line for Firestone is they are spending too much here for the return they see.

But why the panic? Open Wheel fans need to stop being neurotic like George Costanza. In a century of Open Wheel racing, how many makes of all different parts have come and gone? But who can step up to the plate ?

Well let’s look at a few brands that are spending plenty of money on racing in North America that has a smaller audience than the IZOD INDYCAR Series: Yokohama, the Japanese brand has been a major force in amateur Sports Car racing for decades. (My old SCCA RX-7 used Yokohama; I still have a few caps and patches with their name collecting dust from those days.) We see the “Yokes” handing fast technically advanced cars in the American LeMans Series. I do believe they have a few 1st places in the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring. (Not too shabby!)

Next are Hancook and Kuhmo tires, two Korean brands both heavily involved in Drift Racing (a form of racing I am becoming a big fan of), and import drag racing. As well as also being more heavily involved in amateur Sports Car racing.

Plus I’m sure Michelin, Pirelli, and even lately Continental Tires (Grand-Am series, 24 Hours of Daytona) also all could step up to become the new series supplier(s). So it is not like ONLY Firestone or Goodyear could be options.

I do have to admit I am shocked we have yet to hear Indiana area fans (and USAC fans) mention Hoosier Tires yet. While they make mostly dirt track and ARCA pavement tires, they would be a great local connection as well.

Or this could all be moot, and Firestone is just playing the “Danica card” with the series in their contract negotiations. I’m sure we will have a better picture come August.

Ethanol: The scapegoat for other products consumption

Well we know the series currently uses sugarcane ethanol from Brazil. (Helio can dance but he can not sing, right?) This version of ethanol while as complicated as corn to make fuel, can be grown in larger numbers more often than North American corn.

Yet when the Series runs at Iowa, we will hear about corn based. Then anytime you hear the Corporate media talk ethanol they are quick to blame it for increased grain costs “hurting the poor”. Or is it that two industries need to scapegoat another?

You can only really find Ethanol stations in places like Iowa, Minnesota, and other lightly populated upper Midwest states. Good luck finding an E85 pump in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. (All far more populated with humans and vehicles.) At best maybe you can get a whopping 10% mixed in with your gasoline.

Yet go to the supermarket and read the ingredient labels. High Fructose Corn Syrup (or “Corn Sugar” as they now try to go by to avoid the harsh reality of HFCS effects on humans.) is in everything you can think of and then some. From Soda (one of the biggest advertisers on TV), tomato sauce in the jar and from chain pizza companies, to fruit drinks, meat products, and even breads and condiments have HFCS. (How many more Americans consume these? In 2000 Americans consumed an average of 73.5 pounds per person of HFCS!)

And you (the American tax payer) pay for this. The government pays subsidies to help farmers break even to grow this corn. The 2007 documentary King Corn does an amazing job uncovering what the HFCS industry has become. (And how that corn is nasty to eat raw.)

Go figure the industry has one of the most powerful lobby groups just like big oil. So question why a product that has significantly increased obesity (Princeton University) is so important? And gee go figure a product that threatens the Oil giants is the bad guy.

Yet people also like to make the same wild claims about Sugar cane ethanol. That it is causing the poor to starve. Hey if the poor need sugar a few apples and oranges will do that with far healthier results. Again it is the junk food and big oil companies working together on a big steaming pile.

As a fan of the IZOD INDYCAR Series I could only take so much bull about the fuels used. And come 2012 we may hear more of this since we may see an increase in Corn based ethanol with E85. (A main reason GM came back to the Series as well!)

Agree or disagree with Spike Rogan on Tires and Ethanol? Comment below, or you can e-mail him, or tweet him @SpikeRogan.

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2 Thoughts to “Indy Hump Day Report, On the bubble: Rubber

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by IRLback@Pocono , IRLback@Pocono , Spike Rogan and others. Spike Rogan said: Newest #IZODINDYCAR Op-Ed is up: #Firestone […]

  2. Bob K.

    Yikes Spike!!
    Good rant!
    I personally think that Firestone will stay, just using the corporate name of Bridgestone. If not then I believe one of the Korean tires
    will step up to the plate. They both are serious about becoming more house hold names.

    E85? not too sure about looks good on the surface but does not seem to be gaining any ground in the market place. Along with the fact not a lot of cars can use it.

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