Paul Newman – Gone racing…
BY JONATHAN MICOCCI
Paul (P.L.) Newman was his own man, and never more so than in the world of auto racing. He discovered his need for speed preparing for a starring role in the 1969 film, Winning. Paul revealed “I always wanted to be a jock. I skied and boxed and played football, badly. I had no physical grace. The only thing I found any grace in was an automobile.”
The actor began racing at age 48, past retirement age for many drivers, and he won his last race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut at age 82. His many victories were hard earned, resulting from a passionate dedication of time and resources. Two of his racing teammates died in crashes during his career.
Other actors and celebrities have been drawn to the sport, but none have brought the same skill and commitment. Racers came to regard him as one of them, a driver first and foremost. Millions of movie fans might be surprised by Robert Redford’s assessment of Paul’s priorities, “He wasn’t so much divided between the two. It was that film would come second to racing.”
More than a driver, Paul found success as co-owner of Newman-Hass Racing, a top-tier IndyCar team. Team drivers Mario and Michael Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and others gave fans of the open-wheel series some of its most exciting moments, producing eight driver’s championships, and 107 wins.
In 2018, the Verizon Indycar Series became a partner of The Serious Fun Children’s Network, formerly the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. “There were two places where my dad loved to spend his time and could truly be himself, at the track and at camp,” said Clea Newman, daughter of Paul Newman and ambassador for Serious Fun.
Paul was successful in amateur racing, winning four Sports Car Club of America national championships. In pro racing, he was successful in the Tran-Am series, and drove with the class-winning (2nd overall) Dick Barbour team in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans. At age 70, he drove with the class winning team at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona sports car race. Click here for more racing career highlights.
Paul’s passion for speed and his outsized impact on those around him is documented in the 2015 feature length film, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman.
FEATURED IMAGE: Paul Newman at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
A personal memory
BY SARAH GURTIS
We shared a love of sports car racing, so I got to spend many days with him at Daytona International Speedway. On one occasion in 2000 Dodge was getting ready to re-enter NASCAR. A closed test session was scheduled for the Dodge teams at Daytona and included teams from Richard Petty and Ray Evernham. I called the Petty folks and asked if I could invite Paul down for the test. They were delighted and said that if the car was running well, they’d put him in. Well, one phone call to his assistant was all it took. Paul and A. E. Hotchner’s son flew in for the day. It was a picture-perfect winter day, bright blue skies and cool temperatures. We were walking to the garage area and in a spontaneous moment, Paul turned, walked backwards and started singing ditties to me from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” True. He spent most of the day tucked under a car hood talking to the drivers and engineers.
I think about him often and am so grateful for all the shared experiences and memories.