H. Leo Mehl (‘59 BS)
H. Leo Mehl, a native of Parkersburg, W.Va., graduated from West Virginia University in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the U.S. Air Force.
In 1959, Mehl joined the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company as a trainee. Two months later he was called to active duty in the Air Force where he served for three years as an aircraft controller and base engineer. When he returned to Goodyear in 1962, he became a tire compounder. The same year, Goodyear, which had completed a comprehensive market survey project, decided to enter auto racing to change the image of the company.
Mehl was assigned to the new auto racing division in 1963. He was the principal engineer or primary compounder in Goodyear’s first victory in the 24 hour LeMans Race in 1965. His innovations and aggressiveness resulted in the tires that gave Goodyear its first Indianapolis 500 victory with A.J. Foyt in 1967. Following this victory, Mehl was transferred to Goodyear-Great Britain to develop Formula 1 compounds. As manager on international racing, he was responsible for the engineering – compounding and designing – of racing tire development as well as sales and service for the Formula One Grand Prix and other international racing series.
After four years in England, he returned to corporate headquarters in Akron, Ohio, as chief engineer of radial passenger tire engineering and was later named manager of the same department. In 1974, Mehl was named director of racing and served as director of worldwide racing beginning in 1979. He supervised 30 race-tire engineers, plus field managers of Formula 1, NASCAR, Indy cars, sports cars, drag racing and various short-track tours.
In 1993, he received the STP Richard Petty Achievement Award and the inaugural Heritage Award from the Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Mehl retired in 1996 as general manager of the company’s worldwide racing division. During his 25-year tenure there, the company won more than 83 percent of all events, in competition with 14 other tire companies, in 23 North American racing series and one international racing series.
After his first retirement, Mehl accepted the position of vice president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and simultaneously served as executive director of the Indy Racing League (IRL). In that position, he was the chief administrator of the league and oversaw day-to-day operations until his retirement in 2000.
Mehl was elected to the WVU Academy of Chemical Engineers in 1995. He also was a generous supporter of the WVU Foundation’s Building Greatness campaign and made a substantial pledge to benefit the renovation of the chemical engineering undergraduate laboratory. He has a sustained record of support and philanthropy toward WVU.