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Paul Newman the Race Car Driver and Enthusiast

By June 18, 2008

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Paul NewmanThere has been a lot of talk circulating lately about Paul Newman’s health with concerns that he may be battling cancer. When describing Newman, reporters speak of Newman’s brilliant career as an actor and an unfailing generosity to his charities. We would like to add another piece to Newman's list of greatness - his love of cars and his victories when racing them.

It’s been reported that Paul Newman first took an interest in auto racing while filming the 1968 motion picture Winning, in which he played the role of an Indy 500 driver. Since then, he has won more championship races that Oscars, way more.

His first win was in 1972 at Thompson, Conn., in a Lotus Elan. While developing his skills as a sports car driver, he also competed in a modified stock car at Daytona. In 1977, he finished fifth in the 24 Hours of Daytona and two years later co-drove a Porsche 935 to second place in the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Paul Newman earned his first of four SCCA National driving titles in 1976 in the D-Production category. He also won titles in the 1979 C-Production class and was the GT-1 champion in both 1985 and 1986. His first professional Trans-Am victory came at Brainerd, Minn. in 1982, and he followed that with another win at Lime Rock in 1986.

In 1983, Paul joined forces with long-time racer Carl Haas as co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing, with Mario Andretti as the team’s driver. The Newman/Hass racing team has done quite well over the years. Their highlights include:
      * Most successful team currently participating in the Champ Car World Series with 97 victories and seven titles
      * Second in Champ Car history with 100 pole positions
      * Only team in Champ Car history to win titles with five different drivers (1984, 1991, 1993, 2002, 2004-06)
      * Finished 1-2 in the Champ Car season standings in 2004 and 2005
      * Winners of at least one event in 23 of 24 seasons
Paul Newman’s last major triumph came in 1995 at the age of 70 when he co-drove to victory in the IMSA GTS class at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Ya gotta love the guy!

We came across this 1970’s video on YouTube of the Annual Ontario Motor Speedway’s Celebrity Pro Am Race for Charity with Newman reporting and driving with the likes of Al and Bobby Unser, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti. Some of celebrities that joined the professional drivers and the pit crew were Chuck Conner, Artie Johnson and Glenn Ford. We hope you enjoy this video as much as we did. You can find it here on the YouTube website.

Photo © Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

Comments
July 25, 2009 at 12:07 am
(1) Ken Russell says:

As a long time fan of Paul Newman, I still have a personal photo of Paul and one of my friends, Jeff Davis, who drove the Chevy powered #5 Spice SE89P for Paul in the 1991 Daytona 24 hrs. Paul listed himself as a driver that day, but never actually drove the car. Jeff had to withdraw after engine failure, joining the likes of Arie Luyendyk and Davy Jones who also had to drop out after mechanical problems.

I am also old enough to remember Paul’s 2nd place finish in a Gulf-Porche at LeMans in 1979. When interviewing Mario Andretti after the race, an American reporter asked Mario how he felt about an actor being allowed to race with the top professionals. I still remember his answer, “Well, he beat me!”. A good driver and a good man, Paul went on to “beat” alot of people.

September 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm
(2) Skip Panzarella says:

During our racing weekends Paul and I (Skip) had a lot of laughs. We gave thanks to Dow’s secret F14 brake fluid in 1976 and a champion was born. Allison (Skip’s daughter) made it a interesting lunch at Burger King during 1977 24 hr Daytona Race. Thanks for testifying for me. Skip Panzarella

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