Cooper to replace Firestone as new Indy Lights tire from 2014

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Cooper Tires will replace Firestone as Official Tire of the Indy Lights Series from 2014, for a five-year contract that runs through 2018. It’s a two-pronged effect as Firestone has had more than two decades worth of history with Indy Lights, including 13 years as series title sponsor in two different Indy Lights iterations (1991-’97, 2008-’13). Cooper could potentially be in line for a presenting or title sponsor role of Indy Lights for 2014 given this announcement, but nothing to that degree was indicated in the official series release.

Still, this move puts all Andersen Promotions-promoted series under one tire umbrella. Cooper is the presenting sponsor and tire partner of the USF2000 National Championship and replaced Goodyear as tire partner to the renamed Pro Mazda Championship this year.

“I couldn’t be more pleased and proud to announce that Cooper Tires will be the Official Tire of Indy Lights,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Cooper has been a terrific partner of both USF2000 and Pro Mazda and to carry that relationship into Indy Lights gives us a fantastic foundation to build upon. It is rare in today’s motorsports climate to have the luxury of a long-term partnership, and for Cooper Tires to step up its commitment across all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy is just phenomenal. I can’t thank Chris Pantani and everyone at Cooper Tires enough. Their commitment to the future talent in our sport is unprecedented.

“Tony Cotman, our project manager, and I reviewed numerous proposals from other tire manufacturers and were delighted to see so much interest, but Cooper Tires ticked all the boxes. We wanted a partner that would provide a great product with substantial cost savings for teams and, while the final cost is yet to be determined, the Cooper Tires Indy Lights tires will cost the teams significantly less than their current tire prices. Equally important, we wanted a partner that would actively promote and support the series, and our partnership comes with substantial support from Cooper Tires in event activation, series media and promotional efforts.”

Tire testing will begin in September with road course tires available to teams in October.

For Firestone, the news is bittersweet but not entirely unexpected. Firestone continued – somewhat reluctantly according to some sources, given reported higher tire bills – as presenting sponsor and tire partner to Indy Lights over the last two years since Roger Bailey, former series director, stepped aside at the conclusion of the 2011 season.

“Today is a bittersweet day for everyone at Firestone Racing,” Lisa Boggs, Director, Firestone Racing said in a statement. “The Firestone brand has been synonymous with Indy Lights for more than two decades. We believe in the importance of a strong ladder system to develop the next generation of open-wheel stars as well as mechanics, engineers, team managers and other key personnel. We are proud to have been part of developing the careers of many Indy Lights series graduates.

“We are glad to see Andersen Promotions bring its expertise and passion to reinvigorating the Indy Lights series,” she added. “The change in tire supplier will not impact Firestone Racing’s commitment to continuing to deliver the highest quality product to the teams and drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series through 2018. We look forward to welcoming future Indy Lights drivers as they make the move to the IndyCar Series.”

NHRA: Tony Schumacher breaks Top Fuel speed record twice, hits a best of 336.57 mph

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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The “Shoe” put his foot into it Friday during the first of two days of qualifying for the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Tony Schumacher, an 8-time NHRA Top Fuel champion, rewrote the Top Fuel mph record book twice, while Clay Millican did so once, marking the first time in NHRA history that the national speed record was broken three times in the same day.

Schumacher ran a speed of 334.65 mph in his first qualifying run at 3.649 seconds. Millican surpassed that speed mark in the second round of qualifying with a 335.23 mph effort.

Then Schumacher broke the record yet again in his second qualifying attempt in the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster with a blistering speed of 336.57 mph at 3.667 seconds.

And with one more day of qualifying Saturday and final eliminations on Sunday, there’s a possibility that the record-setting may not be over.

“It’s only Friday in Phoenix and there is a lot of racing left to be done this weekend, but today tells me that we have an awful lot of power in this car,” Schumacher said. “Working with my crew chief Mike Neff this season continues to pay its dividends, and this team has really gelled so far.”

Also, Brittany Force returned to the track after suffering a hard wreck two weeks ago in the season-opening race in Pomona, California. Force, who did not make a full pass, is currently in the 13th qualifying position with a 4.454-second pass at 172.72 mph.

“It’s going to take a few runs to figure out this car. It is our car from last season. The guys had to haul back to Indy (after the Winternationals), pull this car out, rebuild it and get it here in time,” Force said. “We get two more tomorrow. I’m not worried. Plus, it works better for me, getting slowly back into it.”

In Funny Car, Jack Beckman took the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot with a second qualifying run of 332.43 mph at 3.845 seconds in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T.

“When it’s this cold the tracks get so tricky, because it can get so cold that the window for hitting a great run closes,” Beckman said. “I like the fact that we were able to make great back-to-back runs like that, especially after we had some trouble with the car in the semifinals in Pomona.”

In Pro Stock, Alex Laughlin had the hot foot, taking the provisional top spot with a second qualifying run of 209.43 mph at 6.537 seconds in his Hot Wheels Car Care Chevrolet Camaro. Laughlin is looking to earn his first No. 1 qualifying spot of the season and just the second of his Pro Stock career.

“It’s awesome to be able to go to sleep tonight as the current No. 1 qualifier,” Laughlin said. “Obviously anything can change tomorrow, but we ran stellar times during testing and I don’t know if it’s the car or the track but I definitely hope that we are finally connecting the dots.”

Qualifying continues at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS:

TOP FUEL — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649 seconds, 336.57 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85; 3.

Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 329.58; 7. Antron Brown, 3.717, 333.66; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 316.45; 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.755, 291.07; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 321.42; 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 13. Brittany Force, 4.454, 172.72; 14. Greg Carrillo, 4.553, 176.49; 15. Troy Buff, 4.560, 164.53; 16. Kebin Kinsley, 9.187, 74.21.

FUNNY CAR — 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.845, 332.43; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.845, 328.70; 3. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.866, 317.27; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 328.62; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88; 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.944, 324.20; 9. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 10. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.148, 306.67; 11. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 12. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.333, 209.59; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.474, 188.81; 14. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 15. John Force, Camaro, 6.745, 96.00; 16. Del Worsham, Camry, 7.374, 93.25.

Not Qualified: 17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.

PRO STOCK — 1. Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.537, 209.49; 2. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 210.54; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.546, 211.13; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.553, 210.57; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.554, 209.49; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.558, 210.31; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.561, 210.41; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.572, 210.50; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.573, 209.65; 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.36; 12. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.582, 208.84; 13. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.591, 209.65; 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 208.65; 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.690, 206.83.

Not Qualified: 17. Joey Grose, 6.730, 205.94.

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