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Industry recalls Hoosier founder's contributions

September 28, 2012, 3:53 am
From staff reports

Wednesday's death of Bob Newton, who founded Hoosier Racing Tire more than 50 years ago, sent ripples throughout virtually all of motorsports, and Dirt Late Model racing was no exception.

Newton, whose tiny operation that started in Lakeville, Ind., in 1957 blossomed into a 400-employee operation and the world’s largest racing tire manufacturer, was key in supporting Dirt Late Model organizations and providing rubber for thousands of drivers over five decades.

Inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2004, the 85-year-old Newton is remembered by those in the industry as friend to the sport.

“Bob Newton has been a great friend of DIRTcar Racing since its inception, and we are deeply saddened he has passed away,” said Brian Carter, CEO World Racing Group, owners of DIRTcar Racing. “Bob was a tremendous businessman who understood the needs of our competitors and organization. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Newton family, as well as the family at Hoosier Racing Tire.”

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart was among others in the sport eulogizing Newton, a multitime winner of the Builder/Manufacturer of the Year by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Museum in Knoxville, Iowa.

“If it weren't for Bob and the company he built, guys like me never would've had the opportunity to do what we do, and I never would've had the opportunity to make it to NASCAR,” said Stewart, the owner of Ohio’s Eldora Speedway. “I don't think Bob ever met a stranger, and I don't think I ever saw him without a smile on his face. He loved his family, but he also loved his company and he loved racing and the friendships he built within the sport.

“No one cared more about racers than Bob. For decades, he's been responsible for shaping short-track racing.”

Sam Driggers, the director of the World Racing Group’s UMP DIRTcar, remembers Newton as a force in helping get the organization off the ground. Hoosier’s famed purple colors, in the form of decals, hats, neckbands and banners, have long been a part of UMP and other Dirt Late Model tours.

“When Bob Memmer was creating UMP Racing 20 years ago, Bob Newton was the one guy willing take to the gamble with him,” Driggers said. “The two of them really got it off the ground, and to see how far it has grown, and continues to grow, would not have been possible without Newton’s foresight way back when.”

Eldora founder Earl Baltes, who aligned his track with the UMP DIRTcar rules — and Hoosier tires — still in place today under Stewart, expressed his sympathy to Newton’s family and Hoosier co-workers.

“I am going to miss Bob, I worked with him a lot of years and at a lot of tracks,” the retired Baltes said. “Without Bob’s help and belief in Memmer’s idea, I don’t know that Dirt Late Model racing would have been saved or ever gotten this big.”

Hoosier’s presence at Eldora has not been limited to Dirt Late Models.� Nearly every division that has competed on the legendary half-mile clay oval has seen Hoosier Racing Tire participation. That involvement even carried over to Eldora’s newest edition, Little Eldora Speedway, with the Hoosier Hotshoe Classic and the introduction of Hoosier branded go-kart tires to the area.

Visitation and funeral services for Newton are open to the public. Visitation will be 1-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1 at the Newton Center in Lakeville. The funeral will be 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Newton Center with burial immediately following at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park Cemetery.

Floral tributes or donations may be sent to Newton Park, 65465 U.S. 31, Lakeville IN 46536.

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