After taking a trip through the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green last year, I have a newfound interest in the history of American racing and sportscars. While looking at all of those fancy Corvettes, including a Pace Car replica from 1978, I was blown away at the craftsmanship and amount of detail that went into America's oldest sportscar. However, one aspect of racing history that is often left out of the discussion is tires. That may sound boring on its face, but upon a deep dive into this topic, I've learned a lot about Indiana's importance in the racing industry.

Hoosier Racing Tire has been manufacturing tires since the 1950s and, in that time, has supplied tires to a number of professional leagues, including NASCAR. What makes them extra special, however, is the fact that this Indiana company is known as the largest race tire manufacturer in the world. Their story is not only memorable but also serves as a snapshot of the classic American dream.

Let's go back in time to the early 1950s, where we'll find Bob and Joyce Newton, who were just beginning a successful racing career in northern Indiana. According to Hoosier Racing Tire, Bob, like many drivers in those days, was not happy racing on regular street tires. In 1957, the couple embarked on a journey to produce their own race tires by re-treading street tires with softer compounds. They came from humble beginnings, selling tires to local racers in a South Bend, Indiana barn. Hoosier Racing Tire was chosen as the name to reflect Bob's racing origins. Additionally, the purple color in the logo, which is still used today, was derived from the painted color of Bob's first racing vessel.

WKDQ-FM logo
Get our free mobile app
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified
Getty Images for NASCAR

The company evolved over the years and began manufacturing purpose-built racing tires in the late 1960s thanks to a partnership with Mohawk Rubber. When the factory closed in 1978, the Newtons opened their own factory in Plymouth, Indiana. According to Hoosier Racing Tire, Bob led the Hoosier Tire Team into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1988. In the first year, Hoosier captured nine victories while getting their marquee win at the Daytona 500 in 1989. However, this was around the time of the "tire wars," which wouldn't end well for Hoosier.

According to the above video, Firestone was the only supplier of tires for NASCAR when the sport kicked off in 1948. However, Good Year entered the game in 1954, with both collecting wins until 1974, when Firestone bowed out. Then, in the late 1980s, Hooiser Racing Tires rode into the track. Good Year, and Hoosier went at it fiercely from 1988 to 1989. To Hoosier Racing Tire's credit, they were working with a team of just 16 employees against Good Year's much larger employee base.

The tire wars would see both companies make changes to their tires to try and outperform the other, with blowouts happening more frequently in the 1989 season. Hoosier would eventually concede and leave NASCAR in 1989. However, according to their website, Hoosier Racing Tires built a new tubeless radial race tire factory in 1992 with plans to return to NASCAR's Winston Cup Series. When they did so in 1994, they were met with tragedy. As the above video notes, Neil Bonnett and Rodney Orr were both killed just days apart that February. The only commonality in the crashes was the use of Hoosier tires. While they had been ruled out as contributing factors in the polar opposite crashes, more and more drivers chose Good Year going forward. Hoosier would finish out the 1994 season but wouldn't go back for more.

Obviously, that wasn't the end of Hoosier Racing Tire. The company grew and continued making tires for the ARCA Series. They were bought by Continental Tire in 2016 and have grown to produce 1,000 different types of race tires. The company is still headquartered in Lakeville, Indiana, and remains the largest racing tire manufacturer in the world. As a hoosier myself, I think that's pretty cool.

10 Best Selling Cars in Indiana

There are a lot of options to consider when it comes to choosing a new ride. Here are the ones Indiana drivers prefer the most:

Gallery Credit: Jake Foster

Best Sports Bars and Restaurants to Watch Football in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky

Hit up any one of these local or chain bars/restaurants to cheer on your team or scream at one of your fantasy players when they drop what would have been an easy touchdown catch.

NOTE: Establishments are listed in no particular order.
NOTE #2: Click the address of each to open a location in Google Maps.

Gallery Credit: Ryan O'Bryan

Things Not To Leave In Your Car When It's Freezing Outside

When the weather is below freezing (32 Degrees), some items that could be found in your vehicle could be potentially hazardous or not work anymore after being left out in the cold for that long.

Gallery Credit: Travis Sams

More From WKDQ-FM