The Passing Of Paul Newman; Johnson And Edwards Stay On Top; Remembering Mike Hollander

Big Bend, WI ( September 29, 2008) – Paul Newman was bigger than life. Everything about him was big, however, when it came to auto racing, he wanted to be just another participant, whether as a driver, owner or sponsor. Always curious, searching out information and experiences, Newman tried everything including stock cars and even sprint cars. Here in Wisconsin on a weekday and later in California Newman didn’t just coast around on the inside of the track, Newman rode the cushion! He wasn’t an actor that drove, he was a racecar driver. Mr. Newman could come across intimidating, but on the other hand could be quite witty. Last year Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing was going to partner with Robert Yates Racing in NASCAR. They had a press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce the verbal agreement which eventually fell apart and the partnership never happened. During the press conference someone asked Mr. Newman about NASCAR Racing, Newman seem to be non-willing participant in the press conference joked, “I started in silent films and I had hoped to continue in that tradition.” This caused the press room to roar with laughter. Another reporter asked Newman about engineering a stock car, Newman responded, “A Champ car will stick to the ceiling at 150 miles an hour. We hope to do that with a stock car.”

Many believe that the Newman’s first exposure to auto racing began in 1968 while filming the movie “Winning” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, Newman first sponsored a Ford-powered Can-Am driven by Mario Andretti at Bridgehampton in 1967.

From there until his death yesterday at the age of 83, it blossomed into a 40-year passion for motorsports. However it was his partnership with Carl Haas that Newman-Haas Racing became one of the top teams in open wheel racing.

Between 1983 and 2008, cars entered by the partnership of Newman and Carl Haas established themselves as a major force on the CART circuit and eventually the IndyCar Series. The team has earned eight championships and 107 wins among eleven drivers. While never able to pull off a win at the Indy 500, the Newman’s team did score a pair of strong second-place finishes, with Mario Andretti in 1985 and with Michael Andretti in 1991, plus a third place in the hands of defending Formula One World Champion and Indy 500 rookie Nigel Mansell in 1993.

However it was 1987 which caused the biggest heartbreak. Mario Andretti led 170 of the first 177 laps from the pole, only to drop out late with an ignition problem. It was one of 13 occasions on which a Newman-Haas driver would lead the “500,” and one of five in which their laps-led total would be greater than by any other driver in the race. From his fine acting, his charities and racing, it is a void that will be missed, however Newman left a lasting legacy.

My e-mail buddy Don Anderson stated it best, “Someone once said to me about Newman ‘They don’t make movie stars like that anymore’. To which I replied, ‘I think they only made a movie star like that once.’ ”

Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edward once again look like the two to beat in the Sprint to the Cup with Greg Biffle hanging around looking for a chance to pounce. Edwards made a nice banzai moved on Johnson to briefly take the lead on the last lap at Kansas today. However Edwards bounced off the wall and Johnson retook the lead to win. Edward explained, “I couldn’t get him until the last couple of laps when I just started bonzai-ing it around on the top there. He was what I was doing, so he went up there to block, and that last lap I just figured the hell with it, I don’t want to finish second here, I want to win this race more than anything in the world, so I kind of bonzaied it in there. I wanted to make sure I cleared Jimmie. I went probably just a little too far and hit the wall harder than I planned on hitting it, and he got back by me. It was fun, though. I’ve always kind of wanted to try that. Now I know that it doesn’t work quite the same as video games, but it was fun.” Edward continued, “The ideal situation would have been me diving under Jimmie just fast enough to either not hit the wall or hit it less hard, and not slow enough. The big thing I didn’t want to do is drive in there and not commit enough, and then you get in that no man’s land where you’ve driven it in harder than you can stick the car – you slide up into him and wreck both of us, because I know he wouldn’t do that to me. My number-one thing was, make this slide job a real deep one so that I don’t collect Jimmie, and then hope for the best. You never know what’s going to happen. He can go in there and get surprised and it can all work out, you know.” Kyle Busch continues his nose dive and now is 12th in points. September has not been kind to him. Talladega is next.

Mike Hollander passed away Wednesday, Setember 24th. Mike was the pioneer in electronic media and promoted the internet as an effective media tool. Mike was diagnosed with a form of colon cancer (mesothelioma) external to the colon.

AARWBA President Dusty Brandel wrote: “In 1979, Hollander worked with the then-fledgling CompuServe Information Service to provide motor sports news on a real-time basis worldwide. By Sept. 1, 1983, that service evolved into the Auto Racing SIG and later into The Motor Sports Forum. The service initially relied on volunteer reporters and phone calls to race tracks to get racing results, later creating a cadre of top professionals and talented amateurs. In 1995, Hollander brought the service to the web, where it continues today as > The Motor Sports Forum. The service was discontinued on CompuServe not long after that service’s purchase by AOL.”

Hollander was the national vice-president of the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) and the secretary of the Motor Press Guild (MPG), respectively the largest organizations of motor sports and automotive journalists.

Mike is survived by his wife, Dr. Sandra Horwitz, Optometrist and daughter, Sharon, who is a student in the South Bay Academy.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 26, at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinella Ave., Los Angeles, 90045 (right off the 405 just south of the Marina Freeway.

I reported for RIS in 1994 and 1995, it was funny speaking to many drivers and being asked for whom I was working and I’d mentioned the internet and the driver would shrug his shoulders, then I say “on the computer” and they would smile and say “Oh, O.K.” We’ve come a long way. Thanks Mike, you’ll be missed.

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