PALMETTO, Fla.—Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has agreed to sponsor and supply tires to the Indy Lights Series—the open-wheel racing series one step below IndyCar—for the next five years, replacing Firestone as series' longtime sponsor and supplier.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Cooper now becomes the tire supplier and sponsor of the entire Mazda Road to Indy ladder system, the steppingstone system developed to foster young racing talent up to IndyCar level.
"I couldn't be more pleased and proud to announce that Cooper Tires will be the official tire of Indy Lights," said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Palmetto-based Andersen Promotions, which will license and operate the Indy Lights Series beginning in 2014 in addition to running the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
"Cooper has been a terrific partner of both USF2000 and Pro Mazda and to carry that relationship into Indy Lights gives us a fantastic foundation to build upon," Andersen said.
"It is rare in today's motorsports climate to have the luxury of a long-term partnership, and for Cooper Tires to step up its commitment across all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy is just phenomenal."
Andersen said that Indy Lights wanted "a partner that would provide a great product with substantial cost savings for teams and, while the final cost is yet to be determined, the Cooper Tires Indy Lights tires will cost the teams significantly less than their current tire prices."
Equally important, he added, "we wanted a partner that would actively promote and support the series, and our partnership comes with substantial support from Cooper Tires in event activation, series media and promotional efforts."
Andersen acknowledged Firestone's "contributions and support to upcoming talent the past 20-plus years. A vast majority of today's top drivers are graduates of Firestone Indy Lights, and that speaks volumes."
Chris Pantani, director of event management, sponsorships and motorsports for Cooper Tire, said: "Being a part of a driver's career path and assisting with their development through each step of the Mazda Road to Indy is what Cooper Tire strongly supports and values."
Andersen Promotions also plans to introduce an updated Indy Lights car for 2014—the current Dallara chassis dates to 2002—and an all-new chassis in 2015.
The company plans to announce a new engine partner within 30 days to replace the Infiniti-based 3.5-liter normally aspirated V8 now in use.
Both Izod IndyCar Series' engine suppliers, Chevrolet and Honda, have expressed interest in providing engines to the revamped Indy Lights.
In addition to supporting the Mazda Road to Indy, Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper supports the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship Powered by Mazda development series and supplies teams in the TORC Series off-road racing and GRC—Global Rallycross.