Paul Newman Takes Life’s Final Checkered Flag

Word just came across the wire that Paul Newman has died of cancer at the age of 83. The morning news programs are all detailing his acting, food business and charity, but here at The Four Wheel Drift, we’re going to remind people that Mr. Newman was a class-act racer.

Newman’s interest in racing was tickled after acting in the 1968 movie “Winning”. Unlike other actors before and after, Newman didn’t just dive into a fleeting passion with cars and then move on. Instead, he brought the same dedication and professionalism to his racing as to his acting.

Newman first won a road race in 1972 while driving a Lotus Elan at Thompson, CT. Over the next two decades he would capture four SCCA National Titles — including D Production in 1976, C Production in ’79 and two consecutive GT-1 trophies (1985 and 1986). He also took two Trans Am Series wins, one in 1982 and one in 1986.

Newman’s endurance racing record made him a legend among actor/racers. In 1977 he placed 5th in 24 Hours of Daytona. In 1979 he piloted a tricky Porsche 935 to second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His crowning achievement, though, might be the IMSA GTS Class victory at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona at the young age of 70. Newman last competed at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2004.

Along the way, Newman was known as a tough competitor, but a true gentleman. As a team owner, driver, enthusiast, and spectator, he was admired for his abilities, insight and complete lack of ego.

Other actors will come and go from driving, but chances are that there will never be another guy as great on the screen as he was behind the wheel and in the pits.

Though most of the world will probably remember him from one of his movie, forgive us here if our memories of Paul Newman are those of him sawing the wheels of Datsun/Nissans, Triumphs and Porsches in his role as professional racer.

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2 Responses to Paul Newman Takes Life’s Final Checkered Flag

  1. Bob Stahl says:

    Years ago, during the IMSA/Camel GT era, I used to run into PLN at Portland Int’l every time I went. He was almost ignored in the pits. My favorite moment was when I followed him into the men’s room and stood next to him at the urinal. I was aware that he had once been asked for an autograph in this exact position, so I kept my mouth shut. After we finished our “business” we stood at the sinks and smiled at each other in the mirror. I also recall that he had the thinnest legs I’ve ever seen on a man. The last time I went to Portland, he was showing John Huston (the director/actor) around the pits, accompanied by Gene Hackman. Nobody bothered them, which is why I believe he liked racing so much. The racers treated him like any other racer. That doesn’t happen a lot in the rest of our society.
    Bob

  2. coffee fiend says:

    Paul Newman is a legend for his work in movies, and he’s a stud for all his work outside of movies

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