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Paul Newman, Hollywood star, ‘was one of the guys’ as he pursued passion for racing, photographer says


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If you wanted to catch Paul Newman, forget spotting him in Hollywood – chances are the movie star was at the racetrack.

The actor, who captivated audiences with his dazzling blue eyes on the big screen, was passionate about auto racing. It was a craft Newman discovered at age 43 while filming “Winning” in 1969. The racing bug stayed with him until his death in 2008 at age 83.

Earlier this year, six award-winning photographers, all whom have shot Newman at various points of his decades-long career, teamed up to share intimate snapshots in a book titled “Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cool.” The photos highlight Newman’s charm and talent from behind the scenes.

Paul Newman is the subject of a new book that was released earlier this year titled 'Paul Newman: Blue-Eyed Cool'.

Paul Newman is the subject of a new book that was released earlier this year titled ‘Paul Newman: Blue-Eyed Cool’.
(ACC Art Books)

Al Satterwhite, who has captured the image – and essence – of iconic figures such as Hunter Thompson, Muhammad Ali and Bob Hope, was featured in the book. He first met driver “P.L. Newman” in 1974 at Bonneville Salt Flats while on assignment for Sports Illustrated.

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“When he’s driving, he not a movie star, he’s a racing driver,” Satterwhite recalled to Fox News Digital. “He is basically around racing people who like racing. And that’s what he wanted to be considered as. Now he had his racing persona on, and he didn’t want anything to do with his star persona. So we got along great.”

“He’s a very easy guy to work with,” Satterwhite shared. “He’s very focused on what he wants in racing and driving – that’s what you want [in a photo]. The problem arose when shortly after we got there and made our introductions, I believe one of the networks showed up… they decided that they were going to film this. And they had not been invited, but somehow they heard about it. So Paul spent the next few hours in his trailer talking to his attorneys in New York because he wanted to race. He didn’t want to be on camera. I was there to shoot still photos, which is much different than shooting motion pictures.”

Paul Newman discovered his love for racing while filming ‘Winning’, directed by James Goldstone.

Paul Newman discovered his love for racing while filming ‘Winning’, directed by James Goldstone.
(Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

In his lifetime, Newman dreamed of being a great athlete, but never found a sport where he could excel. Racing, however, changed everything for the Oscar winner.

“I was never a very graceful person,” Newman once told The Associated Press. “The only time I ever really feel coordinated is when I dance with [my wife] Joanne [Woodward]. And that’s not my doing. But when I’m behind the wheel of a race car, I feel competent and in charge. It’s something I really enjoy.”

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Satterwhite said he was impressed by the “Cool Hand Luke” icon. There was no fuss with him – he simply wanted to race.

Al Satterwhite was on assignment for Sports Illustrated when he first met Paul Newman at the racetrack.

Al Satterwhite was on assignment for Sports Illustrated when he first met Paul Newman at the racetrack.
(Al Satterwhite)

“The thing about Paul that you first notice is that he’s basically a regular kind of guy,” Satterwhite explained. “He’s not in a movie star mode. He’s just normal. You can talk to him on whatever you want to confer about, and it’s kind of a back and forth thing… He’s just another human being. He was very passionate about racing. He took it very seriously and went by ‘P.L. Newman’ because he wanted people to focus on his skills, not his movie star persona… When he was at the track, that’s all he wanted to do.”

In interviews, which were rare, Newman could be terse, even distant. However, when his favorite sport was brought up, his eyes lit up.

“I don’t like talking about acting because that’s business and pretty boring,” Newman told The Associated Press. “And politics can get you in trouble. But I’ll always talk about racing because the people are interesting and fun, the sport is a lot more exciting than anything else I do, and nobody cares that I’m an actor. I wish I could spend all my time at the racetrack.”

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Paul Newman did not want to be viewed as a Hollywood star - he wanted to just be "one of the guys."

Paul Newman did not want to be viewed as a Hollywood star – he wanted to just be “one of the guys.”
(Al Satterwhite)

Newman became a car owner in the Can-Am Series, campaigning cars for several top drivers, including Indianapolis 500 winners Al Unser, Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal, as well as Formula One champion Keke Rosberg. 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. The team — known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series — won 107 races and eight series championships with drivers like Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Cristiano da Matta, Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais.

Despite a heavy schedule, Newman came to the track as often as possible. He attempted to keep a low profile as he roamed the pit lane on his motor scooter or sat at the team’s pit box.

Whether he was watching or driving, Paul Newman attempted to keep a low profile as "P.L. Newman."

Whether he was watching or driving, Paul Newman attempted to keep a low profile as “P.L. Newman.”
(Al Satterwhite)

Satterwhite said that as a photographer, his approach was to be a “fly on the wall.” With thundering engines in the distance, the clicks of his camera were almost a whisper. Quietly, Satterwhite captured Newman at his happiest.

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“Nobody hears the camera, so he’s not aware of it,” said Satterwhite. “And I don’t get in his face. I tend to stand a little bit back using longer lenses because, in racing, it can be dangerous to the photographer and the driver. You don’t want to get in their way… I would do the same with any other driver. It’s just this driver happened to be Paul Newman.”

“Paul was passionate about racing because it was a skill that he learned and could do himself – and nobody interfered with it,” Satterwhite explained. “It was all about him. And he liked that he could get in a car, focus on what he was doing and just drive. It was way different from being on a movie set where you have a lot of people, a lot of interactions and actors tend to be treated differently… You’re just one of the guys.”

Paul Newman carefully observes a 512M Ferrari.

Paul Newman carefully observes a 512M Ferrari.
(Al Satterwhite)

After playing the role of an Indy 500 driver in “Winning,” it was clear Newman could not get the driving bug out of his system. He began racing sports cars in amateur divisions and won his first race in 1972 at Thompson, Connecticut, in a Lotus Elan. He earned the first of four SCCA National titles in 1976 in the D-Production class and also won championships in the 1979 C-Production category, as well as taking the GT-1 championship in 1985 and 1986.

His first professional victory came in the rain at an SCCA Trans-Am race at Brainerd, Minnesota in 1982. Newman added another Trans-Am win at his home track in Lime Rock, Connecticut, in 1986.

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As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand. He managed to combine acting with racing by providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, “Cars.”

Paul Newman's passion for racing lasted until his death.

Paul Newman’s passion for racing lasted until his death.
(Al Satterwhite)

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.

Satterwhite said he saw Newman over the years – right on the track. And today, he hopes his photos show readers how much Newman felt right at home.

“He was just a regular guy,” said Satterwhite. “And I think that comes through in the photos.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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