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If you want to catch Paul Newman, forget finding him in Hollywood – he’ll probably be the star of the movie He was at the racetrack.
The actor, who caught the attention of fans with his dazzling blue eyes on the big screen, was passionate about motor racing. It was a craft that Newman discovered at the age of 43 while filming “Winning” in 1969. The racing bug remained with him until his death in 2008 at the age of 83.
Earlier this year, six award-winning photographers, all of whom shot Newman at various points in his decades-long career, teamed up to share intimate shots in a book called Paul Newman: Blue Eyed Cole. The photos highlight Newman’s charm and talent behind the scenes.
Al Satroit, who captured the image – and essence – of such luminaries as Hunter Thompson, Muhammad Ali and Bob Hope, appeared in the book. He first met driver “PL Newman” in 1974 at Bonneville Salt Flats while on assignment with Sports Illustrated.
“When he’s driving, he’s not a movie star, he’s a racing driver,” Sattroit recalls to Fox News Digital. “It’s basically about people who love racing. That’s what he wanted to be seen as. Now he has his racing personality, and he didn’t want anything to do with his stellar personality. So we got along great.”
“He’s a very easy guy to work with,” Satterwhite said. “He is very focused on what he wants in racing and driving – that’s what you want [in a photo]. The problem arose shortly after we got there and made our introductions, I think one of the networks popped up…they decided they were going to shoot this. And they were not invited, but somehow they heard about it. So Paul spent the next few hours in his trailer talking to his New York lawyer because he wanted to race. He didn’t want to be in front of the camera. I was there to take still photos, which is very different from shooting motion pictures.”
In his life, Newman dreamed of being a great athlete, but he never found a sport in which he could excel. But the race changed everything for the Oscar winner.
“I’ve never been a very fit person,” Newman once told the Associated Press. “The only time I really feel coordinated is when I dance with her [my wife] june [Woodward]. This is not my thing. But when I’m behind the wheel of a race car, I feel competent and responsible. It’s something I really enjoy.”
Satruite said he liked it “Cool Hand Luke” icon. There was no fuss with him – he simply wanted to race.
“The thing I first noticed about Paul is that he’s basically a normal type of guy,” Sattroit explained. “He’s not in a movie star situation. He’s just plain. You can talk to him about anything you want to talk about, and that’s kind of a back and forth thing… He’s just another human being. He was so excited to race. He took it seriously and went to PL Newman ‘because he wanted people to focus on his skills, not on his movie star personality… When he was on the track, that was all he wanted to do.’
In interviews, which were rare, Newman can be laconic, even distant. However, when his favorite sport appeared, his eyes lit up.
“I don’t like to talk about acting because it’s so boring and boring,” Newman told The Associated Press. “And politics can get you in trouble. But I will always talk about racing because people are fun and interesting, sport is more exciting than anything else I do, and nobody cares that I’m an actor. I wish I could spend all my time on the racetrack.”
Newman became a car owner in the Can-Am Series, campaigning for cars for several top drivers, including Indianapolis 500 winners Al Unser, Danny Sullivan, and Bobby Rahal, as well as Formula 1 champion Keke Rosberg. After competing with team owner Karl Haas at Can-Am, Newman partnered with the businessman from Chicago, starting Newman/Haas Racing in 1983 and joining the CART series.
With Mario Andretti appointed as its first driver, the team was an instant success. The team – known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series – has won 107 races and eight championships with drivers such as Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Cristiano da Mata, Paul Tracy and Sebastian Bordesse.
Despite the busy schedule, Newman came to the track as often as possible. Try to stay out of the spotlight while he’s cruising down the pit lane on his motorbike or sitting in the team pit box.
Satterwhite said that as a photographer, his style was “a fly on the wall.” With resounding engines in the distance, his camera clicks were almost a whisper. Quietly, Saturnt captivated Newman at his happiest.
“No one hears the camera, so he doesn’t know it,” Satruite said. “And I’m not facing his face. I tend to park a bit farther back with longer lenses because, in a race, it can be dangerous for the photographer and the driver. You don’t want to get in their way… I would do the same to any other driver. This driver happens to be It’s Paul Newman.”
“Paul was passionate about racing because it was a skill he had learned and he could do on his own – and nobody interfered with it,” Satrowite explained. “It was all about him. And he loved being able to get in the car and focus on what he was doing and just drive. It was so different from being on a movie set where you have a lot of people, a lot of interactions and actors are treated differently…you’re just One of the men.
After playing an Indy 500 driver in “Winning,” it was clear that Newman couldn’t get the driving bug out of his system. He started sports car racing in the amateur divisions and won his first race in 1972 in Thompson, Connecticut, at the Lotus Elan. He won his first four SCCA National titles in 1976 in the D-Production class and also won the 1979 championship in the C-Production class, as well as the GT-1 championship in 1985 and 1986.
His first professional win came in the rain at the SCCA Trans-Am race in Brainerd, Minnesota in 1982. Newman added another Trans-Am win at his home circuit in Lime Rock, Connecticut, in 1986.
As he reached his 80th birthday, he remained in demand. He managed to combine acting and racing by introducing the sound of a crusty 1951 car in 2006 Disney Pixar hit, “Cars.”
Newman drove his last race as a pro at the 2005 Daytona 24-Hours and ran some hot laps around his beloved Lime Rock Park.
Satterwhite said he’s seen Newman over the years — on the right track. Today, he hopes his photos will show readers how at home Newman feels.
“He was just a normal guy,” said Satterwhite. “And I think that comes through in the pictures.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.