The true measure of a man’s life can be summed up by the legacy he leaves behind. While that phrase borders on cliche, it’s the necessary backbone to a successful life. Paul Newman knew this better than most, and that’s one of the reasons why Winning: The Racing Life Of Paul Newman, in my opinion, has taken the title of most compelling automotive documentary ever.
Full disclosure: Earlier this year, I contacted Matt D’Andria, co-host of Adam Carolla’s CarCast show, and arranged a guided tour of Adam’s race shop in Los Angeles, along with a private screening of the movie. I also got the chance to interview Carolla about making the movie and his thoughts on Paul Newman in general.
If I’m honest, prior to watching the movie, I wasn’t savvy to Paul Newman’s racing career and didn’t possess any knowledge that surpassed what Carolla had mentioned on his various shows throughout the years, so barring some quick Google searching that I did the night prior, I was a complete newbie to the subject.
Winning: The Racing Life Of Paul Newman focuses on the nearly countless accomplishments of actor, philanthropist, and racing driver Paul Newman. In a 1969 acting role in the movie, serendipitously titled Winning, he developed an affinity for racing that grew into an all-out obsession, producing an ultra-competitive Can-Am and open-wheel Indy Car race team, and racing in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, grabbing a Second Place finish in Dick Barbour’s Porsche 935, which was (and still is) one of the most insane cars ever made. Paul’s racing career and enthusiasm for the sport seemed absolutely unaffected by age, as he still commanded high-horsepower behemoths on the track up until his death in 2008.
The movie is narrated by celebrity friends, family members, and admirers of Newman’s craft that often had firsthand knowledge of the real rewards and devastating costs that racing had on Newman, both on and off track. The pacing of the movie moved swiftly, providing nuggets of wisdom and humor, between the moments where it was impossible not to empathize with Newman during struggles the racer faced in his private life.
The majority of the footage edited in the film is of Newman’s Datsun race cars (the very same cars that are raced by Carolla to this day), paparazzi footage, interviews featuring Newman on his racing life, and the accounts of the narrators, who include names like Patrick Dempsey, Jay Leno, Robert Redford, and African-American Indy car driver Willy T. Ribbs.
As a movie, it sets out to educate the public on the phenomenal spirit and competitive nature of a man that may otherwise have been forgotten in the sands of time, and it drives that home undoubtedly. Although I’m not a fan of auto racing in particular, I was enthralled with the tenacity that it took to become a successful world-class method actor and a world-class competitive racer, after the age when some professional racers start thinking about retirement. If Senna was the tragic story of a dream deterred, Winning: The Racing Life Of Paul Newman is the triumphant story of a dream realized, galvanizing Newman’s contagiously motivational legacy for generations to come.
Without giving away too much of the dozens of standout moments of the movie, I’d recommend this movie to anyone that had seriously considered their dreams and decided to swing for the fences, regardless if they’re interested in cars or not. I mean, my wife loved the movie, even getting a bit choked up at points, and she thinks the first generation Porsche Cayenne is a good looking car.
Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman will be released in select theaters on May 8th, and video on-demand on May 22nd. You can pre-order on NewmanRacingFilm.com or on iTunes, Amazon, and your local cable provider. It’s seriously worth it.
You can also follow Adam Carolla and Matt D’Andria’s awesome podcast, CarCast at CarCastShow.com.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world’s cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he’s the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn’t feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.