LAKEVILLE, Ind. — The racing community lost a true legend Wednesday when Bob Newton, the founder of Hoosier Racing Tire, died at the age of 84.
Newton started his career in the motorsports business as a race car driver in the 1950s, racing successfully at small asphalt tracks in Northern Indiana. Not satisfied with racing on street tires, which weren’t built with race cars in mind, Newton came up with the idea to design tires specifically for racing.
In 1957, with the support of his wife, Joyce, Newton began producing his own racing tires by re-treading street tires with softer tire compounds. The business was based inside an abandoned horse barn in South Bend, Ind., and quickly began selling tires to local racers.
The name of the company, Hoosier, was chosen to reflect Newton’s racing roots on Midwestern short tracks while the company color purple came from Newton’s old No. 4 race car.
In 1962, Newton made an arrangement with Mohawk Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, which allowed him to design, engineer, compound and oversee the production of racing tires. That arrangement remained unchanged until 1978 when Mohawk closed its doors.
Not one to give up, Newton opted to build his own tire factory solely for the production of racing tires. That company was named R & J Mfg. Corp. (for Robert and Joyce). By 1985 the company had eliminated all outside production sources and was making all of their tires completely in-house.
Now, all these years later, Hoosier Racing Tire is the largest racing tire manufacturer in the world. Newton’s vision to create a company specifically to build racing tires was a radical one, but the company has become synonymous with auto racing.