TORONTO -- Scott Pruett was the first driver to win with Firestone tires in its return to Indy car racing in 1995. That was July 30 in the Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway.
On July 20, who will be the 250th winner?
That will be determined among 23 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers in Race 2 of the Honda Indy Toronto on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition.
The Firestone brand's first documented victory came in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 1911. Since 2002, Firestone has been the Official Tire of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, which has been won by a Firestone-equipped car/driver 65 times in its 98-year history.
“Racing is in Firestone’s DNA and we are extremely proud to celebrate our 250th victory,” said Lisa Boggs, Director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. “Every trip to Victory Circle is special, but the 250th is a testament to our unrivaled passion and commitment to providing world-class race tires.”
A key INDYCAR promotional partner, the Firestone brand also has been an innovator through the years. In 2009, it introduced the alternate tire concept to street and road course events to increase passing opportunities. The alternate tires feature a softer tread compound than the primaries, which provide more grip for later braking and quicker cornering speeds but as a result trade some durability. They're identified by the red sidewalls.
Of the 248 Firestone-equipped winners, reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon leads active drivers with 33 trips to Victory Circle. His first came May 6, 2001, in the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix at Nazareth Speedway and his most recent was Oct. 5, 2013, at Houston.
“Firestone has been a huge part of the sport of Indy car racing over the years,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. “They have been there every step of the way throughout my career in the United States, whether it was in the Indy Lights or the Verizon IndyCar Series. As a manufacturer they have been as close to perfect as you can get. Their record of reliability is second to none and I congratulate them on win number 250.”
Following Dixon among active drivers with the most victories are Sebastien Bourdais (31), Helio Castroneves (29), Will Power (23) and Tony Kanaan (16).
In December 2012, a contract extension was announced that will see the Firestone brand remain the exclusive tire for the Verizon IndyCar Series through the 2018 season.
Welcome home, Hinch
Oakville, Ontario, native James Hinchcliffe has been busy this week with commitments in support of the Honda Indy Toronto. He's the lone Canadian competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader, and his image is on promotional material across the province and in multimedia outlets.
"This race is so special to me and a large part of why I got involved in motor racing and wanted to be a driver," he said. "To come here and have all the support of the hometown is a pretty cool feeling."
Now he's seeking more positive results in the twin 85-lap races. Hinchcliffe's best finish in four Verizon IndyCar Series starts at Exhibition Place is eighth in Race 1 last July.
"Two of our weaker tracks last year were Detroit and Houston, and we had two front-row starts in Detroit and a potential race win in Houston taken away by a yellow (flag), so I basically feel a lot better coming into this week," said Hinchcliffe, who has five top-10 finishes in the 12 races with a best of fifth at Dual 2 at Detroit and Houston 1 in June. "When you look at the doubleheader performance with the 27 car in the pits and in qualifying and race trim, I do come in here with more confidence than in the past. I'm anxious to get out there."
When you wish upon a star
Takuma Sato says he's not superstitious, but he is looking for some good luck this weekend in the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing. Sato has retired in the past five races because of contact, a mechanical and electrical issue.
"The only thing I do is get in and out from the left side of the car. But since we have had so many unfortunate situations this year, I guess we have to do something in order to get rid of some of the bad luck," he said.
Sato noted some Japanese superstitions:
* Four is considered inauspicious because it is pronounced the same as the word for death (shi). Therefore, one should not make presents that consist of four pieces, etc. In some hotels and hospitals the room number four is skipped.
* Nine is considered unlucky because it is sometimes pronounced the same as the word for suffering (ku).
* Do not sleep with head pointing North because that is the way deceased bodies are laid to rest at a funeral.
* If you lie down immediately after eating, you will become a cow.
* If you whistle in the night, a snake will come to you.
* When you see a spider in the morning, it will bring good luck. On the other hand, it is bad luck to see a spider at night.
* If you wish on a shooting star three times, your wish will come true.
Fun with numbers
The July 20 race will mark the 14th race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Since 1994, seven drivers who have won the season's 14th race have gone on to win the championship.
Juan Pablo Montoya was one of those drivers in 1999 when he won the 14th race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The driver of the No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske car won the 12th race of the season -- at Pocono Raceway on July 6. He competed at Toronto in 1999 and 2000.
deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) was among the riders in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn Toronto street circuit. For the un-hip, he's a well-known Canadian progressive-house music producer and performer. "Was fun and all that ... But let me drive next time," he said. ... Rob Faulds, analyst Bill Adam and pit reporter Todd Lewis provide coverage of both races (2:30 p.m. ET July 19 and 20) for Canadian audiences on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific, Sportsnet NOW and Rogers Anyplace TV.