Racing community shares thoughts about enthusiast Newman

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Jimmie Johnson remembered Paul Newman as a great friend of the sport -- and a pretty fast driver.

"I have been out on numerous days where he has driven Cup cars," the two-time Cup champion said. "Normally, Rick [Hendrick] has a play day and puts a restrictor plate on the car and lets guys go out and drive around with half the horsepower. Numerous times, Paul has gone out on sticker tires, the plate off and run really quick laps. I was always so impressed with his driving ability and who he was as a person."

Newman, who died of cancer Friday at 83, did one of the voices for the 2006 film "Cars." Johnson had the opportunity to interview him as part of a TV project he was working on. Johnson also took part in a day at a race track as part of the festivities leading to the premier of the animated feature.

He said they put the body of a Hudson Hornet -- the car that Newman portrayed as "Doc Hudson" in the movie -- on a stock car frame and let him and others make laps in it.

"The only man on pit road with a stopwatch was Paul Newman," Johnson said. "He was timing the laps I was running, other guys were running. Then he got in that car that had no business, with that body especially, going around that track at speed, and he was trying to break the lap times that we were running out there with the school cars and stuff.

"You could see that spark in his eye. He had a true passion for motorsports in general. I would say more IndyCar and road racing, because that is what he came from. He was a great friend of Rick's and knew a lot more than people probably realize about NASCAR racing."

What others were saying:

• "Most of us knew him as Butch or Fast Eddie from the theater or
from our living rooms at home. He was much more than a great actor.
... Paul was a man of character who cared about the world and the
people who lived in it. Putting a smile on a young person's face
and helping people in need was a virtue he excelled at."

-- Michael Lanigan, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

• "I have come to know his passion, humor and above all, his
generosity. Not just economic generosity, but generosity of spirit.
His support of the team's drivers, crew and the racing industry is
legendary. His pure joy at winning a pole position or winning a
race exemplified the spirit he brought to his life and to all those
that knew him. We will truly miss him."

-- Carl Haas, co-owner of
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

• "Paul Newman -- a real American hero, an inspiration to me in much that I have attempted in my adult life. Not so much for the parts he played but for the man that he was. He was one of Hollywood's greatest. He could not only talk the talk on film but more importantly could walk the walk as a private citizen ... He will be never forgotten, may he rest in peace."

-- NASCAR team owner Jack Roush

• "He was just a great guy and truly loved everything about
racing. He and I shared a true passion for motorsports in general,
but specifically IndyCar racing ... Paul was one of a kind."

IndyCar team owner and former driver Michael Andretti

• "We connected as racers, but Paul's ideas of what we should do
for charity is what really resonated with me the most. He set the
bar, not only with his giving, but in how he gave. ... Paul did it
right, and he did it with class. He'll be terribly missed."

-- NASCAR driver Tony Stewart

• "He was dedicated to giving back to those less fortunate, and
with each child we see, we honor his spirit and vision. Undoubtedly
he has touched millions of lives."

-- NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and
co-founder of the Victory Junction Gang Camp, modeled after
Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang camps

• "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."

-- Tony George, chief
executive officer of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the founder of
the Indy Racing League

• "I had the pleasure of driving for Mr. Newman in 1981 and I was
richer for the experience. He was a man of class and he was also
deservedly very highly regarded for his driving skills. The world
is a poorer place today for his passing."

-- Bobby Rahal, IndyCar
team owner and former driver

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.