Notes: INDYCAR looking at life after Firestone?

Current contract with tire supplier runs through 2014 season

In early March of 2011, Firestone announced that it would exit INDYCAR at the conclusion of that year’s campaign. But a short time later, the company then decided to extend its long-time run in open-wheel for three more years.

This saved INDYCAR from the potentially dicey prospect of transitioning to the new, turbo-charged Dallara DW12s without Firestone’s safety and reliability. But Firestone made INDYCAR pay to retain its services, as the tire lease doubled in price with the new pact.

INDYCAR really needed Firestone at that point, and Firestone definitely took advantage. So it’s a bit surprising to find Firestone now wondering out loud over rumors that INDYCAR — an entity that’s dealing with complaints over costs from team owners and still very much looking at their own overall bottom line — may be hunting for another tire manufacturer to step in come 2015.

INDYCAR has released a statement on the matter, saying that while it was indeed exploring its options for the next tire contract, Firestone was still “a part of the consideration” as its “current and historical” partner. But in a Gordon Kirby-penned piece for Motor Sport magazine, Firestone Racing’s Al Speyer is contending that INDYCAR is giving them the cold shoulder:

“We’re very deeply concerned about [a contract extension] and there may be little more that we can do from our side. It does appear that IndyCar wants to go in another direction for tyres. That’s become clear to us. Even though we thought they wanted to extend with us, all of a sudden we learned that they want to go in a different direction. It’s clear to us the current IndyCar management is not interested in working with us.”

To that end, Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star has reported that INDYCAR is looking at a potential alliance with Continental Tire (which currently supplies tires in GRAND-AM road racing) that would see help come from Indiana-based Hoosier Racing Tire.

But back to Firestone, who can’t possibly have figured that INDYCAR wouldn’t explore its options — especially after it increased the price tag for its tires as dramatically as it did with this current deal.

Obviously, Firestone did what’s best for business and no one should begrudge them for it. But INDYCAR has a right to do what’s best for themselves, too. And if Randy Bernard and Co. can find a tire manufacturer that can provide quality products and decent marketing at a cheaper overall price, more power to them.

Yes, it would be sad to lose a historic brand such as Firestone, but if it’s meant to happen, then INDYCAR just has to roll with it. We’d all have to.

That said, the main sense I get from all of this — at least, at this point in time — is that Speyer is simply doing standard public negotiations. We’ll see how this situation evolves further in the months ahead…

Mark Johnson has resigned as general manager of KV Racing Technology. Johnson, who worked in that capacity since mid-2006, helped lead the team’s transition from the Champ Car World Series to INDYCAR when the two leagues unified the sport of open-wheel racing in 2008.

“At this point in my career, it is time for a reassessment on many levels,” Johnson said in a team statement. “My life and my family have always been and will continue to be in the motorsports industry. However, it is time for us to define new goals and how we would like to move forward in the sport.

“This is the opportune time of the season to make this change, since it will allow adequate time for KVRT to reposition themselves for 2013 and allow me to investigate my next challenge in motorsports.”

The full statement can be found here.

Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower have moved on to the next round of the All-Star series of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.” The duo netted a score of 21.5 (out of 30) for their opening Foxtrot, and fan voting through online, text, and phone outlets saw them through to another week.

Next up for Helio and Chelsie on the Oct. 1 show will be the Jive, a dance that gave the Team Penske driver some trouble when he worked with Julianne Hough in Season Five of DWTS.

“It was not bad, but it wasn’t strong, and hopefully, Chelsie can help me out and improve me,” Castroneves said in an INDYCAR statement. “I know we’re going to need a lot of water because that’s one of the toughest dances of all time, I would say, but I’m up for the challenge. I really want to do it for her.”