Paul Newman, who died Friday at age 83, was an avid auto racing enthusiast. He first became interested in motorsports (“the first thing that I ever found I had any grace in”) while training for and filming Winning, the 1969 movie.
Newman’s first professional event was in 1972, in Thompson, Conn., and he was a common competitor in Sports Car Club of America events for the rest of the decade, eventually winning several championships.
From the mid-’70s to the early ’90s, Newman drove for the Bob Sharp Racing team, racing mainly Datsuns (later rebranded as Nissans) in the Trans-Am Series. He became heavily associated with the brand during the ’80s, even appearing in commercials for them.
At age of 70, Newman he became the oldest driver to be part of a winning team in a major sanctioned race, winning in his class at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona.. Among his final experiences in racing was competing in the Baja 1000 in 2004 and the 24 Hours of Daytona once again in 2005.
Newman initially owned his own racing team which competed in the Can-Am series, but later co-founded Newman/Haas Racing with Carl Haas, a Champ Car team, in 1983.
The 1996 racing season was chronicled in the IMAX film Super Speedway, which Newman narrated. He was also a partner in the Atlantic Championship team Newman Wachs Racing. Newman also owned a car NASCAR Winston Cup before selling it to Penske Racing, where it now serves as the #12 car.
In 2006, after he passed his 80th birthday, Newman did funny voiceover performance in the Pixar movie, Cars. turned out to be his final role — an appropriate swan song since it allowed the actor and one of his great passions, automobiles, to merge into one.