Firestone: A History of Speed

Akron, Ohio, 1900. At the dawn of a new century, the nation sprints forward with more desire than ever before. And a man from rural Ohio has just arrived in town with plans to start a tire company. His name is Harvey S. Firestone. Looking to trade horse-drawn travel for horse-powered expression of freedom, he will forever change the automobile landscape.

Fast forward to Memorial Day 1997. Senses are on overload as thousands of spectators on hand and millions more watching from home enjoy the final laps of the 81st annual Indianapolis 500. Dutch driver Arie Luyendyk whips past the checkered flag in the #1 spot, and the crowd goes wild. Underneath his car rests a familiar sight – Firestone tires, the official Indy tire of the world’s best drivers.

It’s been a fast-paced 100-plus years since Harvey Firestone chanced his stake into the future of automobiles, and Firestone is still going strong and still doing its part to carve up the ever-evolving auto landscape. And as its name suggests, Firestone’s legacy has been burned into the fabric of auto racing history forever.

firestone racing tires

Strong from the start

“My only life insurance is Firestone.” These famous words come from racer Barney Oldfield, winner of the Indianapolis 300, the precursor to the Indy 500. In fact, Ray Harroun would win the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911 with the Firestone logo spinning underneath his ‘Marmon Wasp’ racecar. From the beginning, Firestone has helped to ignite the world’s love for auto racing, sparked by that same innovation Harvey Firestone brought with him from the fields of Ohio. This ideology has spawned hundreds of patents and many happy drivers – over 60 of whom have taken the checkered flag at Indy on Firestone tires.

firestone racing car at the track

Lapping the competition

Those close to racing know that the technology involved is always changing. Like the sport itself, things never stop moving forward – and Firestone tires drive the race, quite literally. Pole position is nothing new to Firestone, and they’ve documented a number of firsts that go well beyond the winner’s circle. Among the many innovations Firestone has brought to the track are synthetic rubber tires and high-speed racing tires that could withstand speeds of up to 190 MPH. The Firestone Super Sport Wide Oval tire pioneered the wide, low-profile tire shape that’s now commonplace on today’s fastest high-performance vehicles. And then there’s the fact that every Indy winner from 1920 to 1966 made it to Victory Lane on a set of Firestone tires.

man working on tire

“Best today — still better tomorrow”

That was Harvey Firestone’s stated goal for his company. And we certainly think he achieved it, considering that even Firestone’s earliest technologies naturally began spilling over into everyday life. Beyond the track, Firestone technology advanced not just automobiles, but also tractors, planes, and even rail-driven vehicles, all of which helped to connect the world like never before. Firestone continues to innovate today, linking the worlds between the racetrack and the rat race by continuously transferring new technologies back and forth.

firestone racing tire

Bridging the gap

In 1988, the Bridgestone Corporation purchased Firestone Tire & Rubber Company for $1.25 billion, cementing its status as a world leader in the tire industry. And in 1995, Firestone made a statement return to the IZOD IndyCar Series after a 20-year hiatus, reigniting a 100-plus year relationship that will run until at least 2018.

We’re all winners

Even if you never get to douse yourself with milk or kiss the bricks at Indianapolis, you can still get a taste of the innovation the Firestone brand has been perfecting since its birth in Akron well over a century ago. At TireBuyer.com, we carry some of Firestone’s best high-performance and ultra-high performance tires – tires made for weekends at the track, or for more commonplace milk runs.

Photo credits: Ted Van PeltCarey Akin, evolvingblue (1, 2), Morio

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