First Look: What's New at Hoosier Racing Tire? 5

We added a little side trip onto our MXoN adventure and stopped in for a visit to Hoosier's corporate headquarters.

First Look: What's New at Hoosier Racing Tire?


Earlier this year at the Daytona Supercross, we met Irish Saunders, who showed us the first MX efforts from Hoosier Racing tires. Irish has been extremely passionate about MX, having raced himself back in the day. One of his sons, Eric, was sponsored by Tony Stewart, and was well on his way to a pro career before suffering a spinal injury that left him paralyzed. Eric has since switched to racing a sprint car with hand controls, and won a championship this year.

This week, while we were in South Bend, Indiana, for the Motocross of Nations at RedBud, we stopped by their headquarters in Lakeville, to get a better idea of what Hoosier is all about. We got a rather extensive tour through the entire manufacturing process. We got to see everything from techs weighing out the individual components of rubber, carbon black, and other ingredients, to how the rubber is mixed up into sheet.

We got a peek into the labs, where the finished rubber can be tested in any number of ways you can imagine (strength, stretch, durometer), and a few you can't. They also test individual components of the raw materials that arrive from vendors to make sure that it meets their standards.

There's also a tire testing lab where they can expose finished tires to a variety of stress tests. For example, one can take them up to as much as 300 mph, while mixing in a bunch of different factors to stress them, like camber angle. There's a heavy steel cage that surrounds that particular test unit, and the operators sit behind a thick concrete wall with ballistic glass windows that look inside.

We also got to check at how the casings are created, as a variety of fabrics were coated in rubber, and how the tread areas were added...either in one strip, or very thin strip that winds onto the tire (think like fishing line as it works back and forth across a reel). They also make up the wire beads.

Once the components of the casings were built up, we saw how they'd go into molds to achieve their final shape. To paint a little bit of a mental picture for you, think of it like this. Before they go into the mold, they look like a cylinder that has little resemblance to what you'd think a finished tire would look like. Where the tread would normally be, it's sort of a rubber "blank." There are two halves to the mold, and there's a steam-powered internal rubber bladder that epands from the center to force the casing outward and into the mold. The amount of heat, pressure and force required to create these treads is crazy. After a few minutes, when the mold reopens you end up with a something that you'd recognize as a finished product.

Think it's done yet? No way. There's everything from hand checks of the tires, to X-ray examinations, and a vaccum test that quickly shows whether there are any air bubbles in the interior of the material.

(While all this stuff was fascinating, unfortunately, it was off-limits to cameras).

Now that we're out of the Confidentiality Zone, you can listen to GuyB and Irish talking about what's new (click the play button below), and check out the photo tour below that.

This is the headquarters for Hoosier Racing Tire, in Lakeville, Indiana. What you've got at this location are the corporate offices out front and the warehouses for the finished product out back, as well as their racing service department. The testing labs and manufacturing happens a few miles down the road. In the main building out front, you can see how they'd added on over the years. Each successive block section added on more space when needed. The manufacturing side has a similar-sized facility, and has also seen growth over the years.

Since late 2016, Hoosier has been owned by Continental Tire, who purchased it from the original founder, Bob Newton. Continental also owns General, which is the official tire for the ARCA series. Rather than mount all the tires at the racetrack for that series, these are actually pre-mounted at their headquarters ahead of each event. That means Hoosier (rather than the teams) also own all the wheels.

Up until now, the Hoosier-sponsored riders have only had a rear tire to work with. While we were roaming the facilities, we spotted some of the first test prototypes for the front tires. We also spied some 18-inch rears for the off-road crowd during our tour. Something interesting to note is that with their U.S.-based production, they can make rapid adjustment to as little as a construction, compounds, and more.

Touring through the warehouse, you'll find everything from kart tires to big sprint car tires and drag slicks...and in compounds from super-soft and sticky to very hard. No matter what they are, they're all hand-built in the U.S.

Also newly fresh from the mold was a 10-inch tire for the PW crowd. All Hoosier Racing Tires have the painted logos in place already. These are factory-style tires that everyone can buy.

Irish has been at Hoosier for about 40 years, and besides working on the MX side, also handles the duties as Asphalt Oval Business Unit Manager. During the tour, Irish got to tease GuyB about how he'd let his driver's license expire, and couldn't get a rental car for the MXoN trip. In return, GuyB got to Irish about his "racing injury" from this year at Loretta's. Let's just say that power washer hoses can create a tripping hazard, which can get compounded by the untimely arrival of a golf cart. Happily, another week or two, and Irish should be able to ditch the brace. The Ken Roczen replica scar? He'll get to keep that. We appreciate the tour, gang.

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