Racing Industry Provides Friendship & A Few Laughs


Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports

By Irish Saunders
Guest Columnist

Saunders is Hoosier’s manager of contract sales. He is also the company’s product manager of its open-wheel asphalt line.

Time At Hoosier:
26 years

Home: Indiana

Call The Action:
Irish was once a track announcer.

For more than 40 years I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this sport that we all love. It’s been a passion all of my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to see it from a side and a light that has permitted me to see the changes in our world up close and personal.

From the first time my dad took me to the track, or when I stood behind the microphone at places like South Bend, Ind., or Hartford, Mich., to today, I have been enamored with this sport.

When I was asked to put this little story together, I was truly honored. It’s hard to cover all that has changed during my time in the business in the allotted space, but we’ll give it a whirl.

One thing I’ve learned while building a 26-year career working at Hoosier Tire is the importance of industry-wide relationships. At various points and times in my career, it’s become apparent to me that the analogy, “It’s not what you know, it’s who know…” is very true. I’ll be honest some of the relationships I’ve been able to have because of my employment at Hoosier have been a privilege. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Bentley Warren, Steve Kinser, Kasey Kahne and Gary Bettenhausen are some of the more popular racers, but everyone in this industry has an interesting personality. It’s also created a lifetime of friendships and that’s pretty cool.

I’ve never been much for the sanitized world that we’ve come to live in, but it’s understandable with the sponsorships that are at stake and being in front of the audiences that we found ourselves in front of. There have been plenty of, shall we say, “un-politically-correct” moments through the years, but we won’t get too deep into those instances.

One track operator once told me that the only thing that’s constant in this business is change. He was pretty accurate. In some instances, I’ve seen five people doing one job over the course of time, and before I get out of this business I’ll probably see five more doing the same job, but that’s just the nature of the industry.

We’re fortunate at Hoosier for the loyalty the Newton family has shown to its employees. There are other families like the Economakis that have helped to bring longevity to this industry. That longevity will provide a strong base for the future of the auto-racing industry.

But most of all for me, this business has been fun. Plenty of funny things have happened through the years. One of the more recent things was a few of us went out to the Chili Bowl this year, and, of course, the weather took a turn for the worse, so we had to go through a comedy of errors in renting a vehicle and driving from Tulsa, Okla., back to South Bend, Ind., while one of our other riders had to go all the way back to Buffalo, N.Y.

In between there were a few stops just to keep the rental car from overheating. We all got home safe and had plenty of laughs along the way, but that was just one example of the ever-changing ways of this deal. Certain days are better than others, and sometimes you’ve just got to adjust on the fly.

Recently, some things have happened with some of our closest friends that have brought things into real perspective. Many times we take this business as life-or-death and too close to heart if something doesn’t go our way, but the most important things in life still apply. You quickly realize that your family comes first, and sometimes that’s your family at work, too. Being around this industry for more than 40 years, you tend to grow pretty close to some folks and when it hits close to home you really recognize that all your life, you’ve been going in circles, chasing one another as fast as you can.

It’s a kid’s game played by folks, of all ages, and even though it’s your livelihood, you have to take a step back and appreciate everything you have, everything this sport has given you: family, friends, whatever it may be. Then when you wake up and go back to work, you realize you are on this incredible ride, doing something you love, something that you have passion for, and that’s enough to motivate me to do it for as long as this industry will have me.

(Original Print Date: March 28, 2007)