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.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III