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Fun with Paul Newman

By Kas Kastner, April 2019

Along the way Paul Newman fell in love with road racing. As it was he turned out to have a real talent for it. Great guy, easy to talk to, easy to be around and nothing "high hat" about him. Just a truly good guy and a talented driver.

My first meeting with Paul was at the end of a chain of other events. Paul had purchased Bob Tullius' TR-6 and was preparing to race it in the end of the year "runoff." Paul's engine builder on the East Coast was an old friend of mine and asked me for a camshaft that would produce the power. I produced the cam, Paul won the race, and that was that... or so I thought that was that.

Awhile later I received a phone call from Paul's secretary/personal assistant asking if I would be available for lunch with Paul. I had just recently closed my race shop Kastner-Brophy and did not have a lot going on except for greatly reduced facilities. Anyway, Paul showed up at my little shop in his Porsche and off we went to lunch, celebrating his 53rd birthday at the same time. We had a great time just talking about things, racing mostly. A little while later he called again and asked if I could come up to his house and we'd go get some lunch. I did, and again we just talked about racing, ate hamburgers at his favorite place... nothing serious at all. I believe this is in 1976. Then some years pass by and we had no contact.

In 1986 I took up the job as National Motorsports manager for Nissan. One of the contracts of the department was with Bob Sharp Racing and their hot driver, my old friend, Paul Newman. I was present at a lot of his races where he was driving the 300ZX Nissan cars for the Bob Sharp Team. As part of my job, and with Paul's good memory, we recounted our past meetings and it was all a very comfortable situation. He was really in top form and fast. The cars were well prepared and the competition was tough so it was an ideal situation for me, the team, and Paul.

Lime Rock Raceway in Connecticut was one of Paul's favorite tracks, and close to his home in those days. The Trans-Am event was going on and I was there with the Bob Sharp Team representing Nissan. I cannot remember if it was a Saturday or Sunday, but that day was my birthday. Paul came to the track in a sedan and opened the trunk of the car to show off a big cake. Paul had had a cake made to celebrate my birthday. It was a total surprise to everyone. We all shared this cake as Paul cut the pieces and started the day with a lot of smiles, especially me.

More than once Paul and I sat on the floor in a motel room somewhere near a racetrack and shared a bottle of wine and just yakked and told each other stories and laughed a lot. After a while the Nissan funds for the team dried up and Paul went on to race other cars. Every once in a while we would meet at a racetrack, go off and have a Chinese dinner, his favorite. Good guy, talented fast driver and a true lover of racing. Whenever I think of Paul Newman, the words "nice man" always come to mind.

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