What if you declared war and your top general immediately defected to the enemy? That’s the dilemma Goodyear faced when it challenged Firestone, the racer’s tire of choice ever since winning the Indy 500 in 1925.
Goodyear had first sought to overhaul its fuddy-duddy image by taking on Firestone in stock car racing in the late 1950s. By 1964, Goodyear was ready to tackle Indy with tires developed for NASCAR superspeedways, and it signed reigning USAC champ A. J. Foyt as its fearless leader. Foyt took the money and ran – right back to Firestone. “Loyalty goes only so far,” he said before winning the 1964 Indy 500 on Firestone rubber.
Before long, the Goodyear/Firestone tire war was raging not only at Indy but also in Formula 1, Trans-Am, Can-Am, and NASCAR. Enormous R&D investments led to the development of the wide, low-profile slicks that are still commonplace today. Goodyear won Le Mans in 1965, the F1 world championship in 1966, and, finally, the Indy 500 in 1967 – with none other than Foyt behind the wheel. All’s fair in love and tire wars.
By the mid-’70s, Firestone had been priced out of racing. It’s since returned to Indy – but now as part of the Japanese Bridgestone empire.