Sports Car Club of America mourns the passing of legendary racer, actor and humanitarian Paul “PL” Newman, who passed away Friday after battling cancer. He was 83.
While Newman is best known worldwide as an Academy Award winning actor, SCCA members know him as a four-time Club Racing National Champion and Trans-Am race winner as well as a Championship-winning team owner in various forms of racing, including Trans-Am, Can-Am and Champ Car.
“The world has lost a great individual,” SCCA President and CEO Jim Julow said. “His accomplishments in film and philanthropy are legendary. Another of Paul Newman's passions was motorsports. Whether guiding his team to success on the professional level or racing his GT-1 racecar at an SCCA weekend, there was no question his drive to succeed was just as great on the race track. SCCA is a luckier club for his participation and everyone I have spoken to that had the opportunity to meet Paul Newman has come away the better for the experience. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joanne Woodward and all of Paul's family and friends.”
Newman caught the racing bug while filming the 1969 film “Winning,” in which he portrayed a struggling racecar driver whose career turned around by winning the Indianapolis 500. After attending the Bondurant school in preparations for the movie, Newman began racing in SCCA events.
From 1973 to 2002, under the name “PL Newman,” he made 14 Runoffs® appearances, winning four times (D Production in 1976, C Production in 1979 and GT-1 in 1985 and 1986). Newman finished all but one of his Runoffs races in the top 10, including a ninth-place finish in the 2002 GT-1 Championship event at age 77.
Newman began his professional career in the Trans-Am® series in 1974 with one race at Lime Rock Park. After an eight year hiatus, he came back to win in his first outing in a Newman-Sharp Racing Nissan 280ZX Turbo at Brainerd. He ran nearly 70 races over the next decade, winning a second race at Lime Rock Park in 1986 and recording three poles. Newman’s career-best finish in the Trans-Am Championship standings was eighth, in 1985.
While his primary focus was racing in SCCA events, Newman also achieved success at an international endurance level as well, winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona and finishing second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Newman’s final race event was an SCCA GT-1 race at Watkins Glen International in 2007. At age 82, he qualified on the pole position, but a cool suit malfunction caused him to drop to fourth by the finish on the hot day. After the race, he told an Elmira Star-Gazette reporter, “I wish I was 81 again.”
Newman’s final laps in a racecar came Aug. 13 at Lime Rock Park, his home track. The GT-1 team brought the racer to the track for his final, private laps in a racecar before calling it a career. Newman is widely-regarded as the best racecar driver whose fame primarily came from outside of the motorsports arena.
In addition to his SCCA driving success, Newman and former SCCA Chairman Carl Haas formed one of the most successful open wheel racing teams in North American history – Newman-Haas Racing (now Newman Haas Lanigan Racing). The team has won eight driving championships and 107 Indy Car races since its 1983 inception.
Newman’s acting career garnered nine Academy Award nominations, and he won the Best Actor Oscar® for his role in “The Color of Money.”
In addition to his acting and motorsports activities, Newman also created his own brand of food products branded “Newman’s Own” in 1982. All the company’s proceeds have gone to charity.
In 1988, Newman started the Hole in the Wall Camps—a multi-national group of camps providing shelter and activity to children with serious illnesses.
Newman is survived by his wife of 50 years, actress Joanne Woodward, their three daughters and a daughter by his first wife. He has eight grandchildren.
Donations in Paul Newman’s name can be made to the Hole in the Wall Camps through www.HoleInTheWallCamps.org.