Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Firestone becomes title sponsor of St. Petersburg IndyCar race

Oriol Servia exits turn 3 on race day in last March’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg along the waterfront. Race organizers announced Wednesday that Firestone will be the title sponsor for the 2014 race March 28-30.


Oriol Servia exits turn 3 on race day in last March’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg along the waterfront. Race organizers announced Wednesday that Firestone will be the title sponsor for the 2014 race March 28-30.

ST. PETERSBURG — The IndyCar race set to roar along the downtown waterfront for the 10th time in March has a new name: the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

One month after longtime sponsor Honda suddenly dropped out, race promoters said Wednesday they had a new backer with the tire company. Tickets for the March 28-30 event will go on sale Dec. 1.

"We always felt confident we had a very valuable property," race president Tim Ramsberger said. "Firestone has been with us since the beginning. They're familiar with our event, and they see the value in the event."

The company, which also sponsors the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, has for years held naming rights to the St. Petersburg circuit's first turn.

Headquartered in Nashville, Firestone is owned by Japan-based Bridgestone, the world's largest tire and rubber firm. The conglomerate employs 143,000 people and posted revenues of nearly $38 billion last year.

How much money Firestone paid to expand its branding rights, or even how many years the company will sponsor the St. Petersburg event, were kept confidential as part of the deal, Ramsberger said.

Also uncertain is why Honda dropped its backing after nine years as the lead sponsor. The company is sponsoring similar races next year in Alabama, Ohio and Ontario. Representatives did not return messages Wednesday.

Though attendance cooled during the recession, more than 125,000 people showed up for the three-day event earlier this year, up from 65,000 in 2005, Ramsberger said.

St. Petersburg boosters call the nationally televised event, which draws drivers and race fans from across the world, a three-hour commercial for the city's waterfront.

Though Ramsberger said visitors paid for 27,000 room-nights at local hotels for what organizers call "the world's fastest spring break party," other local businesses said they had mixed results from this year's cloudy race weekend.

Drivers on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit here fly past the Salvador Dali Museum and down the runway of Albert Whitted Airport, with last year's winners pushing an average speed of 83 miles an hour for 110 laps.

The race is the opener for the IndyCar series, known for fast-paced, open-cockpit races like the Indianapolis 500. Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe, 26, beat defending champion Helio Castroneves at the race here in March by 1.09 seconds.

Firestone becomes title sponsor of St. Petersburg IndyCar race 11/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 11:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener


    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    USF outfielder Chris Chatfield is congratulated by third-base coach Chris Cates after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning, tying the score at 3.