CYPRESS, Calif. (June 16, 2009)—Earl Knoper, a retired vice president and 21-year veteran of Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp., died June 12. He was 67.
Knoper served in the tire industry for more than 41 years. During his tenure with Toyo, he oversaw the introduction of several successful product lines, including the Proxes S/T for pickups and SUVs.
As the sport compact car market was also developing at a rapid pace, Knoper secured sponsorships in sport compact drag racing, Hot Import Nights as well as associations with movies such as “The Fast and the Furious.”
Knoper also was passionate about the sport of road racing, and one year flew with his wife, Jan, on the Concord supersonic airliner to watch a Formula One race in Monte Carlo. In 2001, he signed a multi-year sponsorship with SCCA Pro Racing for Toyo to be the official tire of SPEED World Challenge.
The marriage between Toyo Tires and this racing series continues to this day.
After retiring from Toyo at the end of 2005, Knoper served briefly as the president of SCCA Pro Racing Ltd. He and his wife had recently moved to DeWitt, Mich.
Toyo said it was saddened by Knoper's death and that he “will be truly missed by the Toyo Tires family.”