"Look at it
this way," says Newman. "The whole thing about acting is showing your
butt. You've got to be prepared to do that as an actor. But I'm not a
professional driver and I don't pretend to be as good as Graham or Milt or
Coco. Just racing around out here with them is fun. But doing it in front of a
national television audience where I'm the slow guy—or maybe I'm the guy who
breaks the car—that's showing my butt in a way I'm not prepared to do."
This statement is
not without certain, cutting logic: hours earlier, Newman had lost the Daytona
coupe in a wild, 170-mph spinout that had done no damage, but even now various
Hollywood gossip columnists were hacking out florid fabrications about his
supposed troubles at Bonneville, exactly the kind of exposure he is seeking to
off-track, as they say in racing, the Hideaway becomes the scene of a ragged
eight-ball match among a journalist and Newman and his racing buddy, Tom
Chiccone, a stumpy, brash rug manufacturer from Providence, R.I. The game ends
when Chiccone sets pool history by hitting the four-ball so hard that it leaps
off the table and topples a can of Coors on the arm of a nearby chair. The trio
retires to the bar, where Newman challenges all to a chug-a-lug contest.
preliminaries, the official judge, a young bartender cryptically described by
one of the patrons as an "unemployed priest," completes the countdown
and the beer glasses are lifted. In a particularly unseemly display of
guzzling, Newman wins a narrow victory over the journalist, while Chiccone is
disqualified for distributing the entire contents of his glass on his upper
Enter a new
character. Isn't that Warren Cowan, high-powered show-biz public-relations
mogul, tugging at Newman's arm? What is an eminence like this doing in
Wendover? He is trying to get Newman out of the Hideaway in the short term,
although his major mission is to solve the filming issue with CBS; that's what
Warren Cowan is doing in Wendover. Newman leaves the Hideaway amidst much
hand-shaking and back-slapping from the regular patrons as Chiccone returns
wearing a clean, dry shirt. "I am a crummy chug-a-lugger, so I always carry
an extra shirt around," he says.
Next morning the
desert sun is beginning to fry the Coors out of the little knot of people
gathered around the scattered encampment of cars and semi-trucks in the middle
of the monster flats. The salt, cracked and rippled by a dry summer, spreads
away toward the distant horizon, giving those present the impression they are
standing on top of a leviathan meringue pie. The Ferrari team is again
The CBS crew, a
collection of poised pros, remains cool, awaiting developments. Here come the
Ragu spaghetti people, one of the sponsors of the record run, and here comes
Warren Cowan, crunching across the salt with his plump tummy elegantly draped
in a yellow T shirt bearing the logo of Cutty Sark Scotch.
A new walk-on.
That man with the Olympian profile and the burnished ivory hair, isn't that Ed
Saxe, a retired president of CBS? It is, indeed, and the film crew reports he
has arrived to assist in negotiating a settlement of the Newman television
rights. Saxe, Warren Cowan, and Newman huddle in a motor home. They emerge to
announce that the star will provide a press conference for the clutch of
newsmen present, which CBS may film, and a brief on-camera interview. It is
hardly a half-hour monologue, but the film crew believes it can now patch
together a show.
Newman is more
worried about his driving than his television dealings. "I'm four seconds
off the pace," he frets, and refuses to accept the solace that his
performance is excellent, even when compared to his more experienced
colleagues. "He expects too much," says Luigi. "We certainly don't
feel we can play Macbeth. After Newman grouses to Graham Hill about his lack of
speed, that old professional puts the issue into proper context by eyeing the
famous amateur and saying, "Frankly, I'm bloody glad you're not going as
fast as I am."
finally arrive, looking weary. Hill and Minter attempt some practice laps. They
are going slower than the day before. Problems with fuel injection, brakes,
aerodynamics, handling, ignition, etc. emphasize the fact that NART has come to
Bonneville unprepared. Neither car seems fast enough to break any of the
unlimited records, although several in Class C (for engines of three to five
liters displacement) appear within reach. Chinetti leaps into the old Daytona
and breaks the international unlimited record for 10 kilometers and the
national C Class record for 10 miles. But the thought of driving the
ill-handling beast for long periods rattles even the unflappable Minter.
"If I had to run that thing for two hours, I wouldn't even know my own name
when I stopped," he says.