According to Mr. Mateer, motorsports products have been a core part of STA's business for the last half a century. This division has been instrumental in the firm's success and will continue to be, he added, noting that STA is working toward dedicating its Indiana plant almost exclusively to motorsports products.
“Our business model as a niche specialty manufacturer and motorsports company clearly is a market that is a good fir for what our company's strategic business model is,” Mr. Mateer told Tire Business. “We can be responsive and nimble and flexible and put to use the skills, equipment, resources and people to serve that important market.
“And in terms of its strategic fit, we have a lot of work to do to grow our market share and grow our participation in (racing),” he continued. “To the extent that we're able to do that, it will serve a very important duel purpose of helping to not only fill the present capacity that we have but also to provide a dedicated motorsports manufacturing facility from this Indiana, Pa., plant.”
Mr. Mateer said the company's racing product line “came into our wheel house in the 1970s, and it really had to do with finding some things that our bias tire manufacturing technology and equipment and capabilities could handle. It was a good fit for some markets that we were not involved in that met the criteria of having certain value-added opportunities, certain better-than-average returns.”
The McCreary brand became a household name in the short-track racing world, in large part thanks to Joe Jacobs, who pioneered the firm's racing program, according to Scott Junod, director of STA's Race Tires America division. He credited Mr. Jacobs with being the “grandfather of the spec tire rule.”
Mr. Junod told Tire Business that Mr. Jacobs worked to encourage race promoters to adopt single tire rules in an effort to create parity within motorsports competitions. The acceptance of this rule contributed to the sport's growing popularity, he added.
Today, STA derives about 20 percent of its annual revenue from racing products. The firm makes American Racer tires for a variety of applications, including late model, modified, sprint, street stock car tires, both for dirt and asphalt racing, Mr. Junod said.
Most of the company's motorsports products are manufactured at STA's Indiana plant. The firm has a second plant in Unicoi, Tenn.
“From a capacity standpoint, we're in a very good spot to where we can grow our brand, and we have been growing over the last several years,” Mr. Junod said. “We will continue to do so at every opportunity.”
He noted that STA offers private-brand drag and street performance, go-karting, sand, tractor pulling and antique drag tires to various customers, but those products do not intersect with the American Racer offerings.
Mr. Mateer said STA is seeking to gain more penetration into asphalt competition going forward by focusing on adding programs with various sports car clubs around the U.S. Mr. Junod said the company also is in the process of developing its first American Racer brand radial tire.
“The cost of radial sport car racing tires has gotten prohibitive,” he said. “We fully intend to fill a niche and provide a quality product that is not only fast but allows someone to actually be able to afford to do it.”
He said STA has finished final endurance testing on the radial tire and expects to debut it during the 2015 Performance Racing Industry Show, taking place Dec. 10-12 at the Indiana Convention Center.
Evolution of racing
When Mr. Junod came on board with STA in 2013, the former sales account manager for Goodyear's short track racing program immediately saw one major benefit of working for a smaller, independent company — flexibility.
“The flexibility is so important in the racing industry, because it's changing,” he said. “The same tires that were being sold five years ago, because of the explosion of racing technology at the short track level, don't cut it. You've got to be flexible and you've got to continue to improve your products all the time.”
At the short-track level, much of the challenge for tire makers comes from a trickle-down of racing technology that became prominent in more mainstream racing, such as the use of bump stops and coil binding. Both setups are designed to stop a vehicle's suspension from traveling during a race, transferring the force into the tire to maximize grip on the pavement.