A Tribute To A Racer Paul Newman (1925-2008)

Horn FanSenior Writer ISeptember 30, 2008

Paul Newman's a Hollywood icon as a actor, whose passion was racing both as a driver, then an owner, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer on Friday evening.

He was a co-owner of the legendary Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team that competed in the IndyCar series, and also raced in the 70's and 80's, and died with his wife Joanne and five daughters at his side at home in Westport, Connecticut.

Newman was a blessed man. He quite honestly had three careers in his 83 year life. The first was his acting, the second was his love of racing, and his Newman's Own Foundation his third career, which is his legacy. I feel it's a fitting way to honor this icon, who gave a tireless effort to make the world a better place.

I've chosen to concentrate my tribute more on his racing career and his charitable work that's changed or touched so many lives around the world.

He was born January 25, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio, showing an early talent for acting. His first movie role came in 1954 and he starred in more than 60 movies throughtout his career.

Through his acting career, Newman earned 10 Academy Award nominations, with eight being for best actor and his sole Oscar win coming in 1986 for his reprised role of Fast Eddie Felson in "The Color of Money".

In 1969 Newman made a movie titled "Winning", which was a racing movie, for which he attended the Bob Bondurant Racing School. In fact, many of the at speed scenes he did himself without using a stunt driver.

It would be in 1972, that Newman began his second career as a successful race driver, rearranging his schedule to fit the time into obtaining his license. He recorded his first win in Sports Car Club of America that same year driving a Lotus Elan.

He would then move up graduating to a series racing the more powerful Datsun sedans, where he won four SCCA Professional National Championships between 1979 to 1986.

Once he started racing, Newman would never do movie roles from April to October, as he just concentrated on racing.

In 1979, he finished in second place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a Porsche 935. Newman would have a active career in endurance racing, making his last start at 81 years of age at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2006.

Newman, in 1977, would team up with Bill Freeman forming Newman-Freeman Racing, entering cars driven by Elliot Forbes-Robinson, later for both Keke Rosberg and Danny Sullivan in SCCA Can-Am Series through 1982.

In 1983, he accepted an offer from Carl Haas to form Newman-Haas Racing, becoming one of the most enduring and successful teams in IndyCar Racing.

They ended up compiling 107 wins, winning Championships with Mario Andretti (1984), Michael Andretti (1991), Nigell Mansell (1993), Cristiano da Matta (2002) and Sebastien Bourdais (2004 - 2007) (John Oreovicz).

"We've lost a great human being," Haas said. "We've been partners for 26 years and I've come to know his passion, his humor and, above all, his generosity. Not just economic generosity, but his generosity of spirit". (Terry Blount).

The teams never won the Indianapolis 500, the only major race they lack a win in and had a couple of second place finishes.

In 1996, with Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George splitting American open-wheel by forming the Indy Racing League, Newman bitterly opposed the split and would support Cart, later Champ Car.

Newman would not set foot in Indianapolis Motor Speedway for eleven years and it wasn't until the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in 2007 did he come back, and only to accept money for his charity.

Months later the remains of the Champ Car, including his team, would rejoin the IRL sanctioned IndyCar Series.

"Reunification was absolutely necessary for both groups", he said during his 2008 Pole Day appearance. "It's tragic that it didn't happen sooner, but it's good that it at least happened when it did. I think it's going to be a great boost for both groups. It's good to back at Indianapolis". (John Oreovicz).

Newman attended most of his teams races, up until he wasn't able to due to his cancer getting to critical stages.

Newman also had ties to NASCAR. He enjoyed the series and many open wheel fans may not be aware of this. He narrated the documentary film of Dale Earnhardt's life, and was the voice of the old Hudson Hornet in the animated movie "Cars".

NASCAR driver and stuntman, Stanton Barrett,  was Newman's godson and his father Stan was Newman's stunt double. Barrett spoke highly of Newman, commenting on his love of family, the closeness he kept with friends, and how he never wanted to be in or receive the limelight or be publicized about the good he did.

Mentioning it was too bad, since he was a character, people need to realize the type of person Newman was. Barrett would also remark on Newman's competitiveness. Whatever he was doing, whether it be shooting pool, playing a game of ping-pong, or racing, he always wanted to win.

Jimmie Johnson fondly remember two years ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway, when Newman was there for the premiere of "Cars" and took some laps around the track.

"I remember at the [making of the movie] "Cars", they put that Fabulous Hudson Hornet body on a stock-car frame and we're doing the stuff leading into the movie debut," Johnson said. "The only guy on pit road with a stopwatch was Paul Newman. I was running, other guys were running, then he got in that car where he had no business, with that body especially and he was trying to beat the lap times that we were running with the [driving school] cars". (Bob Pockrass, Kenny Bruce and Mike Hembree).

"Paul was a phenomenal individual," Tony Stewart said. "We connected as racers, but his ideas on charity are what resonated with me the most. He did things right and he did them with class". (Terry Blount).

Newman also drove for NASCAR owner Jack Roush, competing in Sports Car. " Paul Newman: a real American hero, an inspiration to me in much that I have attempted in my adult life," Roush said in a statement, "not so much for the parts he played, but for the man he was. (Bob Pockrass, Kenny Bruce and Mike Hembree)

"He was one of Hollywood's greatest. He could not only talk the talk on film but more importantly could walk the walk as a private citizen. As a young man he was an American hero who served his country in one of the U.S. Army Corps' most dangerous assignments in western Europe.

"Additionally, his charitable enterprises have generated tens of millions for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of underprivileged Americans. He will be never forgotten". (Bob Pockrass, Kenny Bruce and Mike Hembree).

He also was very good friends with the Petty's. Their Victory Junction Gang Camp was one of the Hole in the Wall Camps and they developed a close relationship with him.

"He's a timeless person, not only for his acting, but for the other great things he was involved in", said Patty Petty. (Bob Pockrass, Kenny Bruce, and Mike Hembree).

Newman helped start Hole in the Wall Camps over twenty years ago, designed for children with life threatening conditions and today they number eleven camps around the world.

Through the camps, well over 135,000 children have had the chance to experience what childhood was meant to be. (Racer Magazine/speedtv.com).

"An exceptional example is the legacy of Newman's Own. What started as something of a joke in his basement of his home, turned into a highly-respected, multi-million dollar a year food company. And true to form, he shared this good fortune by donating all the profits and royaltieshe earned to thousands of charities around the world, a total which now exceeds $250 million". (Racer Magazine/speedtv.com).

"Paul took advantage of what life offered him, and while personally reluctant to acknowledge that he was doing anything special, he forever changed the lives of many with his generosity, humor and humaneness". (Racer Magazine/speedtv.com).

Growing up as a teenager in the '80s, I fondly remember watching his SCCA races with my dad and postponing my yard work chores for a few hours to watch him race. He was a great man, one any fan could not help but cheer for him as a driver or root for his Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in Indycar.

Newman, with his blue eyes, always had a spark in his eye racing. The birth of a child, a spouse on your wedding day, or a championship won. It's that look someone gets when they feel contentment and true joy. (Terry Blount).

Newman found that in racing, and many people in racing found it in him. (Terry Blount)

Sources are as follows: 

speedtv.com, espn.com, and scenedaily.com                                       


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