If you've got the money and the time — and many celebrities do — you can give racing a shot. If you've got skill and natural talent — which only a few do — you can turn it into something special. These are Jalopnik readers' picks for the ten greatest celebrity racers.
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Photo Credit: Getty
10.) Gene Hackman
Suggested By: JackTrade
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: The Hollywood icon's best-known race was against the D train in The French Connection, but Hackman ran a Formula Ford car in the Seventies as well — which led to a stint in one of Dan Gurney's Toyotas during the 1983 24 Hours of Daytona.
As a bonus, the interview video lays out exactly what it is about racing that attracts a lot of actors. It's not the most profound insight, but it makes it all cheerfully clear.
9.) Jackie Cooper
Suggested By: reverberocket
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: Cooper successfully made the often-difficult shift from famous child star to Hollywood player. He also ran at Bonneville and did enough SCCA racing in big Healeys to make his appearances in period ads seem natural.
Photo Credit: Austin Motors via vintageadbrowser.com
8.) Raymond Baxter
Suggested By: MechaScroggzilla
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: Like Cronkite, Baxter was a journalist who loved racing. The former RAF Spitfire pilot, BBC commentator, and contender for Most Interesting Man In The World was a regular for BMC rally teams in the Fifties and Sixties, often alternating between commentary and driving stints.
Photo Source: forum-auto.com
7.) Patrick Dempsey
Suggested By: Gamecat235
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: McDreamy's racing career has steadily improved from an often awkward beginning into reasonable midpack-or-better competitiveness. Still, what he may lack in absolute talent is compensated by serious enthusiasm and involvement. Racing needs its ambassadors to the mainstream world, and Dempsey certainly puts an attractive face on the sport.
Photo Credit: AP
6.) Bruce Jenner
Suggested By: ElGuapo29
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: After his Olympic triumph but before the plastic surgeries and Kardashians, Jenner had a reasonably successful run in the Eighties driving for Jack Roush. His peak performance was at the 12 Hours of Sebring, where he and Scott Pruett won the GTO class in a Roush Mustang.
Photo Credit: TBS Sports
5.) Eric Bana
Suggested By: SennaMP4
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: The Australian star has been involved in rallying and racing for about as long as he's been acting. His 1974 XB Falcon has achieved no small fame of its own (Love the Beast is the second-highest-grossing documentary in Australian film history) although he's shown a fondness for Porsches as well.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
4.) James Dean
Suggested By: _Engineer
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: Few stars of any kind are as closely tied to a single racing car as James Byron Dean, whose life ended at age 24 when his Porsche 550 was hit at an intersection in California. The soon-to-be-icon had seen success at club races in a 356 Speedster, driving under the name "Joseph Dean," and was preparing for more events when the unfortunate crash occurred.
3.) James Garner
Suggested By: waveridin1959
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: The handsome, shy Garner was bit hard by the racing bug while filming John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix. We've recently had a spate of Garner articles, but his involvement went well beyond blue Oldsmobiles and odd Indy racers; his American International Racing team raced well-prepped Lolas and Corvettes at most of the big events in the late Sixites and early Seventies.
Photo of Garner and Lorenzo Bandini: Victor Blackman/Getty
2.) Steve McQueen
Suggested By: minardi
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: The King of Cool needs little introduction here. An accomplished car racer (second at Sebring in 1970 with Peter Revson), his true love was motorcycles; he was a serious contender in the 1964 International Six-Days Enduro with best friend Bud Ekins when mechanical failures put them out. His Le Mans may not be great cinema, but it's still some of the finest racing-car footage ever filmed.
Photo Credit: Solar Productions
1.) Paul Newman
Suggested By: 62imperialcrown
Why he mixes star power and horsepower: By far the most talented and successful driver on this list, the blue-eyed heartthrob was probably an even better racer than actor. Like Garner, he got into the sport because of a film role (1969's Winning) and quickly discovered both his abilities and a sense of place in a cockpit. The furthest thing from a playboy driver, Newman legitimately loved the sport and its people, being deeply involved both as team owner and driver — winning at Daytona at age 70 was just the cherry on top.
Photo Credit: Jim Culp