American actor Paul Newman (1925-2008) was one of the Hollywood’s biggest actors, producers and philanthropists but also the best and the most successful racer among celebrity drivers.
His racing career lasted for almost 40 years, during which time he participated in various races and series as a driver, team owner and manager. His greatest success was the second place at 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours when he was driving Porsche 935 together with Rolf Stommelen and Dick Barbour.
Paul Newman was also one of the oldest active racers considering the fact that he raced in the 2005 Daytona 24 Hours when he was 80 years old. He passed away in September 2008.
Newman at the set of "Winning", a documentary which chronicled the star's passion for racing
Started racing by chance
Newman was born in 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio. His first contact with world of motorsport happened when he was already a famous and established actor in the late sixties. During the filming of movie “Winning“ in 1969, Newman attended the race school at Watkins Glen track.
He was already a car enthusiast but real racing was a revelation to him. Soon after, Newman started participating in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and 1972 was the year of the start of his official racing career. He drove various cars in SCCA during the seventies but very soon he become part of Datsun/Nissan racing program.
For almost 15 years, Newman raced various Datsun and Nissan racing cars, ranging from small Datsun 510, 240Z and up to 300ZX Twin Turbo. During that period he managed to win a few national SCCA and Trans Am titles.
Newman with his Nissan 300 ZX race car
Scoring podium at 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours
During the late seventies and early eighties, Newman shifted to endurance racing and achieved notable success with podium finishes in Datsun/Nissan and Porsche race cars.
Newman’s biggest success happened in 1979 at the world's greatest endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving a Porsche 935 for Dick Barbour Racing and sharing a car with Rolf Stommelen and team owner Dick Barbour, Paul Newman was second overall what was a tremendous success for the 54-year-old actor.
Newman scored Le Mans podium in the #70 Porsche 935
Most successful racer among actors
During the eighties, Paul Neman was a constant and successful participant in Trans Am championship, participating as a regular competitor from 1981 to 1988. Nissan 300ZX Turbo was his car of choice and his success was a big part of the Nissan’s marketing campaign.
In 1991, Newman briefly returned to endurance racing with races at Daytona and Sebring, but was not very active until 1995 when he participated at 24 Hours of Daytona and finished third in a Ford Mustang. After that, Newman continued to enter selected events, mostly 24 Hours of Daytona until he retired in 2005 at the age of 80.
In the later part of his racing career he was a co-owner of a few racing teams, most notably Newman/Haas Racing.
Newman before the race
Paul Newman was a great actor and a great racer and one of the rare people with such natural talent and skill. He was not an aggressive driver and earned respect as a true sportsman, successful racer and a pleasant person. Those who knew him said that racing was his absolute passion and love, and that the fortune and fame did not change him, he kept his modesty and people say that he was the happiest when on the race track.