From the Plymouth Motor Speedway to the bright lights of the Brickyard, Michiana has ties to the checkered flag.
While the drivers may come from all over the world, it's the tires that have helped many cars thunder down the straights. And many of those have come from our back yard.
In this Made in Michiana, it’s a rare glimpse behind the purple letters of Hoosier Tire.
“We have to do it better, faster and quicker than anyone else or we simply would not survive,” said John DeSalle VP of Engineering and Manufacturing at Hoosier Tire.
That fight to survive was born on the track. Bob Newton, the founder, was a racer before a business man and he saw a need for better tires.
“There was a real void because we were lacking grip and sliding around on the race track and racers like to have a lot of grip,” says Dennis Sherman VP of Sales and Marketing at Hoosier Tire.
The push for better tires continues today.
“We are much more sophisticated today even than we were ten years ago,” said DeSalle.
Known for quality and performance, these tires have found themselves on everything from carts, to fiery dragsters, to dirt track racers, to even the bat mobile.
“Hoosier Racing Tire has been able to grow as the market has been able to grow, motor sports has become more and more popular. Not only in the United States but through out the world,” says Sherman.
Today, the business has become the world’s largest race tire manufacturer and one of the largest employers in Marshall County.
Every tire comes from Plymouth, and before the trademark letters are painted on, these tires start off as a recipe.
“We buy raw materials from around the world, raw chemicals, natural rubber, synthetic rubber, different types of oil, carbon black, different textiles,” described DeSalle.
Precisely measured ingredients are combined to create rubber. A large mixer runs 24 hours a day, 7-days a week to keep the plant supplied.
“The rubber slab is going to go through these cooling conveyors and be cooled down to about 20 degrees above ambient,” explained DeSalle.
Eventually that rubber is combined with cloth to form the body of the tire from there skill full hands and eyes focused on quality take the body of the tire and create what is known as a green tire.
Green tires come to life during curing process when tire molds add heat and pressure. Hot off the press, works inspect these newly minted tires.
Before they head out the door final touches are added. Tires are scanned and shipped to Lakeville and beyond.
“We currently ship to over 70 countries, we have warehouse distributers in Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, South America, we ship all over the world,” said Sherman.
Just as the companies reach grows so to is the plant.
“We are currently undergoing an expansion to increase our rubber mixing capacity,” explained Sherman.
“My job is to make sure we consume all of that rubber capacity, but there will be capacity maybe we will venture into becoming our own custom mixer and add our expertise and mix rubber for other types of rubber companies,” says DeSalle.
While the company may branch out, the roots are firmly set in Indiana soil.
“We have a lot of great staff members here that come to work, work hard to make these tires. It is very labor intensive, we have a lot of good engineers and a lot of good product managers that go out in the field on weekends and attend race events. It is a very good work ethic that keeps Hoosier Racing Tire in the Midwest,” says Sherman.
“Every day we strive to improve we have a philosophy here of continuous improvement, so no matter how good that tire was at the last race, we are constantly looking to improve the performance of that product,” said DeSalle.
As part of the expansion, Hoosier Tire will be adding jobs.
They hope to have the new rubber mixer up and running around the first of November.