The history of Hoosier Tire is one of an American Dream come true for two young, Indiana entrepreneurs who turned a personal vision into a reality.
It all began back in the early 50's when Robert "Bob" Newton, along with his supportive wife Joyce, began a successful racing career on the small asphalt tracks of northern Indiana. Bob, like many of his fellow drivers, was not satisfied with driving on street tyres with their limited sizing options and uniformly hard tread compounds. It was during these early days of "eating bologna sandwiches and sleeping on a creeper under [my] racer" that Bob had a vision to produce his own tyres specifically designed for racing.
So, in 1957, Bob and Joyce decided to begin producing their own race tyres by re-treading street tyres with softer compounds. They began their business in an old abandoned horse barn in South Bend, Indiana, selling their tyres to local racers. The "Hoosier" name was chosen for their company to reflect the origin of Bob's racing roots on the short tracks of the Midwest. The company colour of purple came from Bob's #4 race car.
While the company had just two employees at first, it wasn't long before the business began to grow. Soon family members, friends and neighbours were being recruited to re-tread tyres. As the fledgling company began to master the available tyre-making technologies, they set their sights on producing their first race tyre specifically designed for racing. And so, in 1962, Bob Newton did just that through an arrangement with the Mohawk Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio. For the next 16 years, Bob commuted from northern Indiana to Akron to design, engineer, compound and oversee the production of his tyres.
Then, on Thanksgiving weekend in 1978, the Newtons were delivered news that could have ended the ever-expanding business that their small work force had worked so hard to develop. Mohawk was closing the Akron plant and, as a result, was about to end their ability to produce new race tyres. Faced with this potentially devastating news, Bob and Joyce made a decision that has changed the face of racing forever. With their long association with the local bank, they were able to mortgage their home and Hoosier Tire to raise the capital needed to build the world's first and only factory solely devoted to the production of racing tyres. Located in Plymouth, Indiana, just down the road from the corporate office in Lakeville, the factory began production in 1979 with just a handful of employees under the name "R & J Mfg. Corp." (for Robert and Joyce).
During the early years of R & J, the secret rubber formulas required to produce Hoosier tyres were still being produced by outside suppliers. Finally, in 1985, as the business continued to grow, the Newtons determined to eliminate the need to rely on outside rubber suppliers by developing the company's own in-house rubber production capabilities. So, it was back to the bank to obtain financing for the first million dollar mixing plant to produce rubber compounds strictly for racing tyres. The equipment purchased included the latest computer controlled "Banbury" to mix the complicated racing compounds as well as the components for an advanced testing and technology centre.
The Hoosier name, while well known in the racing community by the late '80s, was not yet a nationally or internationally recognized name. Then, in 1988, the company went Winston Cup racing, taking on the "Goliath" of the tyre business. Hoosier, in its first year of competition in the series, went on to capture 9 victories and worldwide fame. The following year, Hoosier tyres were on the winning car in the grand-daddy of all races, the Daytona 500. While this success was on a bias-ply tyre, work had already begun at Hoosier on producing a radial tyre that would work in racing applications.
In 1991, after three years of research and development, Hoosier introduced its own radial race tyre into the Busch Grand National series with great success. That same year, Bob took his vision of complete in-house control of the manufacturing processes needed to produce Hoosier tyres one step further.
The company purchased a multi-million dollar, one-of-a-kind, new four-roll "Z" calender to go into an equally new state-of-the-art calendering facility next to the existing mixing plant. This innovation allowed Hoosier to apply rubber directly onto its own specially woven fabrics while maintaining the very tight tolerances that their engineers needed to build tyres that would perform under the extreme speeds and high heat of racing.
In 1992, Hoosier took another bold step and decided to build its second tyre building plant in preparation for the company's return to NASCAR's Winston Cup series. This tyre plant was solely devoted to the manufacture of tubeless radial race tyres constructed with inner safety shields and designed to run on super speedway tracks at speeds in excess of 200 mph. In 1994, after three successful seasons in the Busch series, the company made the move up to the premier NASCAR Winston Cup series where it went on to enjoy its most successful season to that time. In that year, the talented Geoff Bodine claimed victory on Hoosier's innovative radial race tyres four times in the #7 Exide Battery / Montgomery Ward "Auto Express" Ford.
The following year, Hoosier attempted to have NASCAR waive its "tyre count rule" which required all participating tyre manufacturers to bring enough tyres to every race to supply the needs of all of the cars in the field. With this rule in place, Hoosier was required to produce roughly 2000 tyres a week to sell only a few hundred during each event. This rule eventually proved too costly for the company to endure, so a financial decision was made to exit the top two NASCAR series, much to the displeasure of many racing fans. Despite this setback, Hoosier's overall success and growth in the industry continued.
In 1995, Hoosier was chosen as the sole supplier for all series events for the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). This allowed Hoosier to continue developing tyres for super speedway tracks. Also, the funding which had been used in the Winston Cup and Busch series was now available to assist an explosive growth plan which the company initiated at this time. Over the next several years, additional professional staff were added, including more engineers, compounders, product managers and track support personnel. The company financed further plant expansions and added more equipment. More production personnel and administrative staff were hired. All of this allowed the company to continue participating in its existing racing venues even as it penetrated additional markets while still assuring all of its customers a reliable supply of high quality racing tyres.
In 1998, Bob and Joyce made the decision to re-name "R & J Mfg. Corp.," the manufacturing side of their growing company, as "Hoosier Tire & Rubber Corp." This removed the shroud of secrecy which the company had maintained within the community and industry concerning its manufacturing base.
In 1999, 15-time Pennzoil World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser signed a 2-year agreement to exclusively run Hoosier tyres in 2000 and 2001. "The King of the Outlaws" went on to capture an unprecedented 16th series championship his first year running the Hoosier brand. This also allowed Hoosier to lay claim to their first Pennzoil World of Outlaws championship title in the history of the company. The success of Kinser and Hoosier during the 2000 campaign was recognized by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Museum with Steve Kinser being awarded the "Driver of the Year" award while Hoosier President and CEO, Bob Newton, was awarded the "Builder/Manufacturer of the Year" award.
The turn of the century also saw Hoosier Tire & Rubber Corp. complete a massive multi-year plant consolidation and upgrade program which brought all operations together into one sprawling complex. Through the dedication and hard work of countless people within the Hoosier organization, the 3-year project was completed in just 18 months.
Today, Hoosier is the largest race tyre manufacturer in the world, and all Hoosier race tyres are still proudly "Made in the USA." The company continues to be privately owned and operated by the Newton family, and founders Bob and Joyce remain actively involved in the day-to-day operations of Hoosier (as do many Newton family members). Hoosier has grown to be one of the largest employers in Plymouth, Indiana, and produces over 1000 different types of race tyres. The company has its own 300-mph test wheel; a technology centre; state-of-the-art, fully-integrated production facilities; and a model sales and distribution network in Lakeville, Indiana, which others seek to emulate.
The pride that exists among those associated with Hoosier continues to be the focal point of the success the company has enjoyed over the years. Bob and Joyce, as well as others involved in the racing industry, marvel at the success and growth of the original business they started over 40 years ago. At Hoosier, we know that if you build a company with talented, hardworking people who care, and produce a product that performs at an affordable price, you will satisfy the needs of your customers and both you and they will be winners. This philosophy has been, and will continue to be, the secret behind Hoosier's success in building tyres
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