Firestone has extended its title sponsorship of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg through 2023.
The sponsorship, as well as partnerships with the city of St. Petersburg and with local firms, are vital to the event, said Kevin Savoree, co-owner of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, organizer of the Firestone Grand Prix.
“Firestone has been with us since the beginning and several years ago took on the title role. You cannot make events like this happen without partnerships like this,” Savoree said at a Friday morning press conference at the race course in downtown St. Petersburg.
Drivers were practicing and competing in qualifying rounds Friday, with races beginning Saturday and the NTT IndyCar Series race scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday. It will be broadcast on NBC. Thaddeus Bullard, professionally known as WWE Superstar “Titus O’Neil,” will serve as grand marshal for the event. Before the green flag waves on Sunday, Bullard, who lives in Tampa, will give the command for IndyCare drivers to start their engines. He will also participate in pre-race ceremonies.
Firestone, a brand that’s part of Bridgestone Americas Inc., has been the sole tire supplier to the NTT IndyCar series for 21 years. The St. Petersburg race is an ideal setting for the brand to engage race fans and consumers, while showcasing its tire technology, a news release said.
“This is a world class event that we’re very proud to continue to support,” said Lisa Boggs, director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.
Local partners, ranging from Modern Business Associates and Dynasty Financial Partners in St. Petersburg to Seaboard Manufacturing, a woman-owned small business in Clearwater, also are important, Savoree said.
Modern Business Associates, a human resources outsourcing company, sponsors an annual 5K run in connection with the race, with proceeds going to the Police Athletic League of St. Petersburg. The race will be virtual this year.
Dynasty Financial, which provides wealth management and technology platforms for independent financial advisory firms, is sponsoring driver Sebastian Bourdais, who lives in St. Petersburg, and is one of several companies with a suite to host guests during the race.
Stepp’s Towing Service, based in Tampa, is another partner.
“They helped us not only with the wrecker service on the weekend that we need – hopefully, not so much but sometimes it happens – but they’ve been instrumental in helping us reduce our build time, which is a great benefit to the city,” Savoree said.
A new partner is Seaboard Manufacturing in Clearwater. “They made hand sanitizer stations throughout the track that literally you walk up, step on a gas pedal and the perfect amount of hand sanitizer comes out. It’s actually a locally owned female organization and they came up with this idea,” Savoree said. “It just shows the American spirit, the resiliency, the ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back out there and figure out what the new normal can be.'”
Bridgestone also has a local connection. “Our oldest store is actually in this area. Firestone complete auto care tires plus,” Boggs said, “For us that local footprint and local support is equally important. They are very proud and do a lot to support and get fans out.”
This weekend’s race was originally scheduled for March, but was postponed as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
“We’ve learned a lot more now about what to do and what not to do,” Savoree said. “We know now that massive outdoor facilities, wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer, social distancing, those are things you can overcome the environment and still do things you want to do. That’s what led us here today.”
Indy Car has done a tremendous job in general, Boggs said.
“It has been incredible to see how resourceful everybody in sports in general has been as we try to get back. It’s really a testament to all that, the community at large, the IndyCar community, that we’ve been able to come back this weekend and hopefully put on a great show for the fans and give everybody a little sense of hopefulness,” she said.
This weekend’s race is the finale of the NTT IndyCar season, and the Firestone Grand Prix will return to its usual season-opening spot in 2021.