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Buckeye Built: Akron's Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. hand-built tires keep NASCAR rolling for 65 years

Posted: 9:22 AM, Nov 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-22 18:01:13-05
Buckeye Built: Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company

AKRON, Ohio — From Cleveland to Columbus and Toledo to Cincinnati, Ohio is packed with companies who call the Buckeye State home.

As part of the News 5 Cleveland Buckeye Built series, reporter Meg Shaw went behind the scenes of a company who was once known as the largest rubber company in the world: Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

History

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was established in Akron in 1898 by Frank Seiberling. The company was named after Charles Goodyear, responsible for developing vulcanized rubber.

Goodyear led the rubber industry with dozens of products. In 1903, they developed the first tubeless automobile tire. In 1909, they produced the first airplane tires. By 1917, Goodyear built its first blimp.

Success came easy for the company. In 1926, Goodyear became the largest rubber company in the world.

Thirty years later, in 1956, the partnership with NASCAR was founded. Since then, the two have continued their uninterrupted relationship. Since 1997 Goodyear has been the exclusive tire supplier for the sanctioning body’s top three series.

By 2013, the tire and rubber company opened a brand new global headquarters in Akron.

Race Tires

Goodyear has expanded its presence across the United States and overseas. The company has 49 plants in 22 countries. But the Akron factory is the only one responsible for hand building race tires supplied to NASCAR and NHRA.

Each and every single tire is hand-built by the hands of Northeast Ohio men and women. Each year more than 100,000 tires come out of the Akron facility.

If all three series are racing in one weekend, Goodyear will bring almost 4,000 tires to the track.

"Not many people build a product they can see being used on national television."

Owen Cheney is one of the thousands of employees at Goodyear. He's has worked for the company for 21 years. For the last six years Cheney has worked as a tire builder, after spending 15 years in other various positions with the company. He said each and every day he's proud to work for the tire maker and to be a small part of NASCAR.

"Not many people build a product they can see being used on national television," Cheney said. "I know exactly what race they're going to and that's pretty cool. There's a lot of pride because I'm building them by hand. There's drivers going 200 miles per hour on these cars, so that's something you're always thinking about.

Throughout his time with the company, he's met NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick. "First and foremost is their safety," Cheney said.

Watch the video below to see employee Owen Cheney build what he calls a "green tire." A Green tire is a race tire before its been cured.

Buckeye Built: Building a NASCAR tire by hand

All in the Family

Hundreds of thousands of people have worked for Goodyear in its more than 100 year history.

Inside the Akron facility there are dozens of people who are currently carrying on the legacy of working for the company following in the footsteps of family members.

"We're gonna be here at Goodyear... like forever."

Shena O'Neal and Dawn Washington are both employed by Goodyear. Washington has been with the company for 13 years and O'Neal for eight. They're sisters.

Buckeye Built: Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company

O'Neal said she began working for the company after her older sister called her to let her know about an opening within the facility.

" I interviewed and I literally got the job like walking out in the parking lot, because they love her so much," O'Neal recalled. "It was a big step up from my daycare job."

Washington said working with her younger sister has brought the pair closer. "We don't really hide anything from each other," she said.

Both employees said they loved working at Goodyear.

"We're gonna be here at Goodyear... like forever," O'Neal laughed. "Until they kick us out dragging and screaming.”

Mike Savula Jr. is a fifth generation employee at Goodyear. Savula Jr. is at a senior at the University of Akron and a fourth year intern with the tire company.

"Very fortunate, very. I think blessed would be the word that I would use," Savula described his opportunity to intern at Goodyear.

Savula Jr. is hoping for a full time position within the company following the end of his internship, following in the footsteps of his family: His great-great grandfather, Michael, his great-grandfather, John, his grandfather, Martin, and his father, Michael Sr.

Savula Jr. said from a young age, it was clear working at Goodyear was something to be proud of.

"It had been instilled in me at a young age, the amount of pride and dignity they take in their work," he said. "I never got to really see it firsthand, other than working at home with them. But when I came here, I saw that not only did they have that, everybody here, from the tire builders, to the engineers, to even HR, they all have that pride and the dignity that they do. I think that was really cool for me."

The engineering intern said scoring a job with Goodyear would be an honor.

"That would mean pretty much everything to me," he said.

Sustainable Practices

Recently Goodyear began using soybean oil in its consumer tires.

"Soybeans are appealing because they're domestic, abundant and renewable," Dr. Bob Woloszynek said.

Dr. Woloszynek, Goodyear's chief engineer and polymer science and technology, said they began experimenting with the compound in 2011. "We're always looking for new material technologies."

The soybean oil has replaced petroleum based oil in three consumer tires, Dr. Woloszynek said.

The engineer said soybean oil is safer and a more sustainable option. He said the soybean oil, when mixed with the other polymers, makes the rubber more pliable at lower temperatures.

Dr. Woloszynek said Goodyear has a goal to increase their soybean oil use by 25% by 2020. Plus the company has a long term goal to completely replace petroleum based oils with soybean oil by 2040.

"It's a big goal. It's going to be a great challenge for our team," he said. "We're off to a great start."

Watch the video below as Dr. Woloszynek explains the difference between rubber containing soybean oil and rubber without soybean oil.

Buckeye Built: Goodyear using soybean oil in consumer tires

For more information about Goodyear Tires and Rubber Company, click here.

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