Racing legend Mario Andretti was on hand as Bridgestone America offered a sneak peek Monday of its new race tire production facility in Akron.
Andretti traded in his racing helmet for a hardhat to tour construction of Bridgestone’s more than 80,000-square-foot production facility.
"I'm finally working for a living," the 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner said with a chuckle as he put on safety glasses and a visibility vest.
The new plant will produce all the tires used in the IndyCar series under the Firestone label. That’s about 30,000 tires a season.
Andretti said that’s a good thing because race tires don’t last that long. "The average life of a race tire is 8 to 10 minutes," he said.
The facility will be a mixture of new construction and renovated historic Firestone buildings that will house Bridgestone’s current race tire development team.
Race Tire Engineering & Production Director Cara Adams said it was important to keep race tire production here and have access to expert tire builders.
"But it's also great for us in the engineering team because we're able to walk right across the street and we're able to see the construction of the tires and look at them right when they come off, follow tire builds. So it's a really great advantage for us to have this right next door," she said.
She said while it doesn’t mean any new jobs right away, Bridgestone may add an experimental tire division in the future.
Production is scheduled to start in January.