Actor was driven by passion to race

Paul Newman wanted to be a great athlete -- he just never found a sport in which he could excel. Then, while filming the movie Winning in 1969 at age 43, he discovered auto racing.

 

"I was never a very graceful person. The only time I ever really feel coordinated is when I dance with Joanne," the Cleveland native once told The Associated Press, referring to his wife, Joanne Woodward. "And that's not my doing. But when I'm behind the wheel of race car, I feel competent and in charge. It's something I really enjoy."

Newman, an Oscar-winning actor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and race car driver, died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, Conn., publicist Jeff Sanderson said.

Tony George, the chief executive officer of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of the Indy Racing League, said: "To all his fans worldwide and those close to him in our racing community, we share a deep sense of loss, but cherish the many fond memories we will forever carry with us."

Newman spoke of his passion for racing during a 1995 interview with the AP shortly after he was part of the winning team in the Daytona 24-Hours sports car endurance race. He was 70 years old at the time. No one remotely close to that age had ever won in that event.

When Newman decided to get into racing, it was more than just being in the cockpit that interested him. He became a car owner in the Can-Am Series, campaigning cars for a number of top drivers, including Indianapolis 500 winners Al Unser, Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal.

After competing against team owner Carl Haas in Can-Am, Newman formed a partnership with the Chicago businessman, starting Newman/Haas Racing in 1983 and joining the CART series.

With Mario Andretti hired as its first driver, the team was an instant success. Throughout the past 26 years, the team -- now known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series -- has won 107 races and eight series championships.

Newman drove his last race as a professional in the 2005 Daytona 24-Hours and even ran some hot laps around his beloved Lime Rock Park in August.

As the years went on, people kept asking him when he was going to quit racing. His reply was standard.

"That's what Joanne keeps asking me," he said.

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