Saturday, September 27, 2008
PLN - RIP
Paul Newman passed away today after a long but private battle with lung cancer. Tributes will certainly come pouring forth honoring him for his acting career and his philanthropic work through his Newman's Own brand and his Hole-In-the-Wall camps. I want to honor Paul for his other overriding passion - racing.
Paul Newman did not start racing until he was 47 years old. His interest in racing was spurred by his role in the 1969 movie "Winning". Paul participated in his first race in 1972, and immediately showed an aptitude for the sport. Yes, he could afford the best equipment, but he also had an undeniable talent for road racing. Newman participated in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National Championship Runoffs 14 times, winning in 1975, 1979, 1985, 1986. He last participated in the SCCA National Championships in 2002 at age 77. Newman co-founded Newman-Haas Racing in the Champ Car Indycar Series in 1983 with his partner Carl Haas, and over the years employed such legendary drivers as Mario and Michael Andretti and Nigel Mansell.
Throughout SCCA Newman was not viewed as a celebrity, but as just another racer. He was often referred to simply as PLN, which were the three intials that he placed above the drivers side window of his race cars, where drivers typically put their names. He continued to race well into his golden years, competing in the 2005 Daytona 24 hr Endurance Race at age 80. He won his class in the 1995 Daytona 24 hr race at age 70.
Paul Newman was a tremendous embassador for amateur sports car racing in the U.S. His high profile, long-term involvement, and success in both amateur and pro racing helped helped shine a spotlight on a niche sport. He will be greatly missed.