Paul Newman has won an Academy Award and been nominated ten times. He has garnered the respect of his peers and the American public. Nearly all that Newman touches turns to gold, including his line of foods, his racing team, and Joanne Woodward. (Not everything, of course: see the Kevin Costner clunker Message in a Bottle. Actually, don’t.)
Newman has rarely been forced to demean himself with shameful roles. Unfortunately for him, he now faces the hardest role of his life: kissing IRL CEO Tony George’s posterior. That’s why he has reached out to fans of the Indianapolis 500, begging them to come back to the track after the open-wheel merger of the IRL and his beloved Champ Car last winter.
Tony George’s family owns the Indianapolis Speedway. In the late 90s, George (a failed racer himself) used that leverage to break away and create his own open-wheel series - the IRL. His super-cheap cars and ownership of the Indianapolis 500 allowed him to outlast the more expensive CART-née-Champ Car series while NASCAR took them both behind the barn.
Everyone in CART before the breakaway had to choose sides; Newman-Haas Racing went with CART. Since the abrasive legacy man George’s IRL ‘won’ in the merger, Newman now has to pimp George’s race in letters and appearances in a last-ditch effort to rescue open-wheel racing from another round of bankruptcy and complete marginalization.
If Newman didn’t love racing so much, he wouldn’t put up with George. In fact, if the Academy ever gets around to rewarding Newman again for his acting accomplishments, they could reward him next year for any time he’s in the same room as Tony George that he doesn’t punch George out.