Paul Newman and Steve McQueen: The Beef Between Two Racers
Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were perhaps the most widely known celebrity racers ever. Being contemporaries, in the same business, and having the same passions, you’d think the two would get along swimmingly. You’d be wrong. Last week, I attended the Jalopnik Film Festival where those in attendance screened Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman. After the film, Adam Carolla held a question and answer session about the film. One question from the audience spawned an interesting story that we had never heard before. RELATED: This Lowly Nissan 300ZX Became One of Paul Newman’s Fastest Racecars.
Carolla opined that McQueen had a one-sided rivalry with Newman. McQueen saw Newman’s success in racing and acting and wanted to be better than him. He saw Newman as a target. Newman on the other hand, was just a racer. He didn’t have any on track beefs, he just went out, raced his heart out, and left nothing on the track. Emotion didn’t play a part in it.
Dick Barbour, of Barbour Motorsports, trained both men stated, “Paul was a very methodical driver. He wasn’t a natural like Steve. McQueen picked it up immediately.” This statement combined with Newman’s racing success probably infuriated McQueen even more.
RELATED: Read our Review of the Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman Here
Then there was McQueen's demeanor. According to Carolla, McQueen was kind of a jerk. When the actors met for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, McQueen wanted top billing, even though he wasn’t yet as well known as Newman. Because of that, McQueen turned the picture down. While shooting The Towering Inferno, the same issues arose once again. One of Newman’s lifelong friends, A.E. Hotcher recalls Newman calling McQueen a “chicken-sh*t” for counting the lines he had versus Newmans.
No matter where McQueen and Newman met, McQueen was always trying to one-up Newman. Yet the two never raced against one another, providing great argument fodder for car guys even to this day—Who was the better racer?
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