Goodyear Still Churning Out Racing Tires With Old Fashioned American Manpower In Akron

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When you walk into Goodyear’s super modern world headquarters in Akron, Ohio it feels like you’ve been transported to some European 5-star hotel that is the furthest thing from what you’d expect to find in the city where the company has been pumping out tires since 1898.  The lighting is straight out of an architecture magazine. The turnstiles where the workers enter different wings on the building are these science fiction-like waist-high gates that open via worker badges. And then you go through corridors, elevators and see more Swedish Ikea-esque lighting before entering a boardroom where Goodyear executives walk you through a presentation on what their company is all about in 2018, especially on the Goodyear Racing side.
This is when you learn that Goodyear Racing tires are made in a 102-year old facility connected to this super modern new world headquarters. Still made with good old fashioned American manpower. That’s also when you’re told it’s time to break into groups and tour that facility, but “no phones.” You never know when some tire company sends in a plant or learns something from an inside the ropes photo.
Phones go away, you change into steel toe boots and throw on the safety glasses. It’s time to walk into the world where Goodyear Racing is making every single tire that ends up at NASCAR tracks — and NHRA races.
The factory mixes modern technology and tire-making procedures that have been used for decades to produce tires that have been the exclusive tire of NASCAR since 1997. That’s when you meet the workers that pump out the tires. Generations of families have come and gone through this building, making new tires day after day. 4,000 of those tires are delivered to NASCAR tracks per weekend. The tire-making process is kinda a big deal so that’s why you’re not seeing photos off my iPhone from the tour. What’s clear is that there are like a dozen checks and balances to make sure the tire that Kyle Busch gets on race day is 100% ready to roll to victory.
By the end of the assembly line the tires roll down, there’s been dozens of eyes on that tire. There have been robots checking for imperfections. There have been workers with dozens of years of experience analyzing that tire. Eventually it is off to a race with an embedded chip (RFID) that will provide Goodyear engineers with data to analyze the performance of that specific tire.
Eventually the steel toed boots are given back and it’s time to haul it over to the blimp facility because any Goodyear trip isn’t over until you’re on a blimp ride over Akron, something that is pretty rare. You just can’t buy a ride on the blimp like it’s some sort of Groupon.
What’s it like to ride in the blimp (they now call it an air ship but won’t get mad at you for calling it a blimp like you have since you were a child)? It’s pretty much like a plane ride, just slower. The take off is at a fairly steep pitch and then things level off at about 6,000 ft. At that point it’s a hot air balloon ride. You’re kinda floating around while in the brand new Winged Foot Three gondola.

Goodyear trip observations:

• There’s something to be said about iconic U.S. companies that have stayed in the city where things started; visit Akron and you tell me what corporation is important to that city; Goodyear is everywhere
• It’s crazy to think they used to paint Goodyear on all those tires; now a machine does stamping
• The Goodyear proving grounds feels like you’ve been transported to some German proving grounds even though I’ve never been to German proving grounds, just seen pictures in automobile magazines
• No better way to feel alive than ripping around the proving grounds at insane speeds
• NASCAR guys need to settle down; these people beat themselves up when a tire fails; you can see on their faces that it eats at them
• I know it’s a media trip, but this is my second time at Goodyear and the people couldn’t be nicer; trust me, I’ve been on some trips where the company involved couldn’t care less if you’re there, they go through the motions; it takes a little prodding, but eventually Goodyear executives take a deep breath around us media nerds
• The logo — does it get much more American than that?
• The blimp — growing up in western Ohio & now living in NW Ohio it’s pretty hard to avoid the blimp and I still stop on a dime to look up; no joke when I say it’s a bucket list item to get up in that thing
• It’s incredibly cool that the worker who makes the winning tire on NASCAR weekend walks into work on Monday and hears the news
• Yep, the Goodyear hat I left with goes right into the 5-star hat rotation; won’t become a grass cuttin’ hat for a long time

NASCAR tire manufacturing – visual inspection
NASCAR race tire components – photo of the ingredients that make up a NASCAR tire

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