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Al Speyer – an appreciation

December 14, 2012

After spending 30 years working in motorsports for Bridgestone Americas – and an overall 38 years with the company – Al Speyer is hanging up his red and white jacket and retiring in 2013. Speyer has been the executive director of motorsports and brought Firestone back to the major open wheel arena, both in CART and with the IZOD indyCar Series.

He began his affiliation with Firestone after graduating in 1974 from Syracuse University with a BS in mechanical engineering. During his long career, Speyer has worked on a variety of motorsports disciplines that range from stock cars, sports cars, drag racing, Formula One and American open wheel motorsports. He’s taken charge of the company’s efforts in SCCA’s amateur and TransAm series, in IMSA’s GTP/GTO/GTU classes and the Firestone Firehawk Endurance Series.

“My career with Bridgestone Americas is filled with positive experiences, and my time in motorsports has been a dream come true,” Al Speyer said. “I will be forever grateful to the company for the opportunities I’ve enjoyed and thankful to all of the individuals that have counseled and supported me in so many ways.

“I have thought about retirement for some time and that time has come,” he revealed. “I still very much enjoy what I do; likewise, I will enjoy spending more time with my wife Jane, our son Erik and friends. I look forward to helping with the transition to my successor, who will undoubtedly bring new and innovative ideas to the program. I will deeply cherish the memories and will remain a fan for life.”

So will we, Al, so will we. We’ll always be a fan of your work.

Shortly after Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. was acquired by Bridgestone Corp in 1992, U.S. operations were consolidated as Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. At that time, Speyer was named manager of motorsports and the following year the company announced it would end a 20-year absence from top forms of open-wheel racing.

It was 1996 when Speyer began managing the open-wheel efforts in CART and the Indy Racing League for Bridgestone/Firestone, quickly becoming the dominant force in CART and forcing foe Goodyear out of the picture. He was promoted to director of motorsports and in 2001 was named executive director of motorsports. In addition to directing the CART/IndyCar programs, Speyer also took charge of motorcycling and karting arenas. He managed all aspects of the firm’s racing activities including marketing and promotions.

photo courtesy Bridgestone Americas

photo courtesy Bridgestone Americas

Speyer’s had his hands full with his work in INDYCAR the past few years. Despite bringing tires to the track that were nearly infallible, introducing the red, alternate tire for road/street courses that upped competition between drivers and teams and giving the Indy cars one piece of equipment they could always count on, there were moves afoot in Indianapolis to replace the vaunted Firestone tires as INDYCAR’s single supplier.

Those actions might have hastened Speyer’s decision to call it a day. While his place in the history of American open wheel racing is assured, his camaraderie inside the paddocks he’s prowled over the years is an aspect I’m sure every participant will miss in the coming season and beyond.

Speyer’s compatriot on the consumer tire sales side of Bridgestone Americas, Phillip Dobbs said, “Al Speyer was instrumental in managing our motorsports programs for the past 30 years. When we began supporting the Indy Racing League again in 1996, Al helped lead Firestone back to a premier position in Indy car racing. We will miss Al Tremendously, but we look forward to building upon the great legacy he leaves behind.”

Bridgestone Americas said it intends to continue supporting its current efforts, including the Firestone Indy Lights Series (or at least we hope so – that wasn’t indicated in the statement from the company). A search for Speyer’s successor is underway.

Personally, I want to thank Al Speyer for his openness and willingness to inform this reporter, as well as keeping the entire INDYCAR  paddock shod in the best tires available for competition. I hope he comes to as many races as he can, just so we can have his wisdom around – and his great attitude.

By Anne Proffit

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