Firestone Tires has been involved with indy car racing for the past 21 years, and 14 years of those as the Official Tire with the series now known as the Verizon IndyCar Series. It is also the Official Tire of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Three females work with Firestone Racing in top key positions: Cara Adams, Senior Project Engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports; Susie Jensen, who works as a Tire Technician for Performance Tire Service Company – a contractor of Bridgestone Tire; and Lisa Boggs, Director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.
All three females say that the Bridgestone team as a whole are absolutely accepting of a female in their midst, working along side with them. There have been females all along at the Firestone Bridgestone company, even on the technical side.
It is unique in motorsports as a whole and IndyCar in particular to have females working on the engineering/technical level. For a long time Adams was the only female in IndyCar working on that level. “It has one advantage in that you look different so people remember you better.”
Cara Adams started with Firestone Racing in 2008 and before that she worked as an engineer in Tire Dynamics at Firestone. Adams knew she wanted to work in racing. “Shortly after I started there, I found the manager in Racing and let him know I was very interested in racing. I asked him what his ideal engineer looked like. Then I went out and got text books and studied hard.” Adam’s said her goal was to do so well that he would have no choice but to hire her. It worked.
Back at the office, Adams’ main role is tire development. She designs tire construction and her lead project is super speedway/oval tracks. When she’s at the track, she works with the teams to ensure they have all the tire data that they need. In Pit Lane, when they come in for a Pit Stop, Adams check tire temperature and gather other data. In general she works with all the teams, but on occasion she spends time with an individual team. After the session Adams and Jensen will talk with the teams and the engineers, to get their feedback which is helpful to maintain the Firestone quality. Adams said “We’re constantly evolving our product, making sure we have the best quality product.”
Susie Jensen is currently a Tire Technician with Firestone, having been in this role for the past ten years. Before that she worked with CART and ChampCar in Logistics. In her current role, Jensen is assigned to specific cars for the weekend, working on the cold side of the wall. All the data she collects is proprietary to that team, such as tire temperature, measurements, probes, etc. This information is shared with the Bridgestone engineers who work with all the teams. Jensen absolutely loves her job and gets on well with all the guys. She’s just one of them.
The tire data Jensen gathers is extrapolated and analyzed by Adams.
Adams said “We actually have great relationships with the teams where we have non-disclosure agreements. We all work together well. They share data freely about their specific car – about what is going on in the Pit Lane; but we would never share specific data between teams.”
Both Adams and Jensen wear fire suits during the race, as required in the Pit Lane, but they don’t go over the wall, so aren’t required to wear helmets. Adams said “Our role is more monitoring, making sure the tires are ready, right pressure, that the tires look reasonable.”
Lisa Boggs has been with Bridgestone the past two years. She has been in motorsports for nearly 20 years, starting with Marlboro, Roger Penske and Al Unser Jr. in IndyCar. Boggs collaborates with everyone on the Bridgestone team, as well as IndyCar. She has no engineering background, so her resume includes a lot of marketing and communications in motorsports in general and specifically in IndyCar. This brings a different perspective to the Director role. Boggs works with Dale Harrigle, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports Chief Engineer and Manager of Race Tire Development, as well as Adams and her crew “to make sure we’re doing everything we need to do for the competition standpoint as well as the business and marketing standpoint. I’m just the one who’s making sure everyone gets what he/she needs.
This weekend Firestone has its street course tires, the same compounds as last year, with a Prime specification and an Alternate specification, aka Option. Those are known as Reds. These tires are used at all the street courses, such as Toronto, St Petersburg, anywhere where there is a temporary street circuit. Street courses are a bit different as they tend to be a little bit bumpy, and have surface changes between concrete and asphalt. A race tire is needed which can handle those conditions.
“What we do in the Verizon IndyCar Series is to meet the overall objectives of the Bridgestone brand, to ensure that we’re working with the teams and competition to bring the best product for the best racing. One of the fan things is the tire display in front of the Bridgestone tire compound, with the Long Beach street tires and story boards explaining their differences and similarities. And the point is made that these street tires, with all their engineering and testing, can be purchased at a local dealership, with a coupon from the Bridgestone booth in Fan Village.