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VIPER DAYS TEAMS GIVEN RARE FACTORY TOUR
HOOSIER ASSOCIATES GIVEN ROYAL TREATMENT

6-12-03

Sonny Whelen's #31SOUTH HAVEN, MI (June 7-8) -- The spirit of cooperation was in the air last week between Viper Days competitors and Hoosier Tire associates when several Viper Days drivers and crew members were given a rare tour Thursday of Hoosier's manufacturing facilities in Plymouth, IN. The participants were given a "start-to-finish" tour giving them detailed knowledge of how a Hoosier tire is made. That weekend, the Viper Days Series was competing at Michigan's Gingerman Raceway where the series and its competitors offered Hoosier associates the same hospitality afforded them during their recent tour. 

The factory tour was organized by Hoosier Road Racing Product Managers Bruce Foss and Jeff Speer. On Thursday, June 6, eleven Viper drivers and crew members were given a rare tour of the Hoosier Tire & Rubber Corp. manufacturing facility. Due to the highly secretive nature of the race tire business, tours at the factory are extremely uncommon. But when a tour is allowed, it presents a special opportunity for those who work at the plant. It affords them the chance to show "outsiders" the hard work and dedication that is put into each and every tire they produce. 

The tour included the components area, the calendering operation that makes the fabric used to make the tires, a revealing stop at the Hoosier X-ray machine and a quick stop at the 300-mph test wheel. All this preceded the heart of the tour--the tire building facility where all the components are assembled. The Viper competitors were able to witness the carcass assembly, the bead installation, the belt/tread application and finally the curing process. 

The tour was welcomed by Don Newton, Vice President of Manufacturing, and was guided by Hoosier engineer Gary Freymiller. The tour group was encouraged to ask questions and were amazed to see the depth of knowledge of those assembling the tires. Not only did they know their own job, they had detailed knowledge of the jobs that were to be performed both upstream and downstream of their own. This has been achieved over the years via Hoosier's extensive training and cross training programs developed and guided by Hoosier Training Coordinator Roger Ridenour.    

During the tour, Mark Sutch, Hoosier's calendering manager, struck up a conversation with Sonny Whelen, owner/driver of the Whelen Engineering Viper #31. Sutch mentioned that he, along with many other Hoosier associates, was planning on attending the Viper Days event that weekend with his family using passes provided by Hoosier and Viper Days organizers Skip Thomas and his daughter Courtney. Hearing this, Whelen requested that he look him up while there. 

On Saturday, the Sutch family including Mark, wife Chris and sons Tyler (12) and Richie (7), no more than entered the paddock when they were spotted by Sonny Whelen who immediately recognized them. He came over to them offering them greetings with a smile and a hand shake. Whelen also informed them of the luncheon for the teams that was being served and that he signed them in as guests so they could eat with the competitors. While there they were able to talk with several other drivers and crew members. During the luncheon, they also were able to meet Viper organizer Skip Thomas. Thomas then proceeded to go out of his way taking the Sutch family through the pits and even let them sit in several Viper cars which put an ear-to-ear grin on both the boys faces while mom was busy snapping pictures.

A few of the other Hoosier associates enjoying the Viper Days festivities compliments of Hoosier and Viper Days' Skip Thomas were Hoosier's maintenance supervisor Dave Jensen along with two of his three boys. They were joined by Jason Perkins of the maintenance department and his 8-year-old son Austin in experiencing the thundering competition featured in the Viper Days event.

When it was all over, the Viper Days competitors who had toured the Hoosier production facilities not only had a better understanding of the labor intensive and meticulous process required to make racing tires, they also had an understanding of the high-caliber people who make the tires. And in turn, the Hoosier staff also gained an appreciation of the people associated with the Viper Days competition. In the words of Mark Sutch who recommended everyone attend a Viper Days event, "You will not be disappointed with the friendly atmosphere and the competition of the race. It makes you proud to build and supply tires for such a class organization as the Viper Racing League."  

To view the results of the Gingerman race and to learn more about the Viper Days and the Viper Racing League visit their website at www.viperdays.com

      

Images from the June Gingerman Competition      

      

      

      

      

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