Actors, like civilians, have hobbies, although actors’ hobbies tend to be on the more expensive side. Either through a film or being exposed to cars on their own, these actors all took a risk and decided to race cars. It’s a dangerous hobby, and in one case, it resulted in death. But, akin to racing pros, the actors are drawn to the pumping adrenaline a race creates—the thrill of the chase. Many of these actors were so good at racing, they put their acting careers on hold to race full time. Besides racing, some of the actors owned a racing team and/or collected their fair share of sports cars, aka toys.
10. Brian Austin Green
Husband of actress Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green is not as avid a racer as some celebs, but he did win the 2010 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Toyota gives $5,000 to the organization Racing for Kids, so Green helped make that happen. In 2011, he returned to the event and competed as a pro, but didn’t win. In the event, he’s beat out actors like Adrien Brody and Frankie Muniz.
9. James Garner
The recently deceased actor fell in love with racing, during the filming of the auto racing film, Grand Prix in 1966. This led to James Garner owning the American International Racers team for a couple of years, and appearing in the documentary, The Racing Scene. He competed in off-road races like the Baja 1000, and three different times–1975, 1977 and 1985–he drove the pace or safety car at the Indy 500.
8. Adam Carolla
The comedian and talk show personality has an affinity for sports cars, especially those once owned by Paul Newman. Adam Corolla owns Newman’s Datsun Camel GT pace car, and his Nissan 300ZX, along with a 1967 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 and a myriad of other cars, which are displayed in his garage. Corolla not only owns these cars, but he occasionally races them and other Newman cars, too. In 2012, Corolla won the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, Calif. in the celebrity race and returned last year and won the race again, this time in the pro category.
7. Paul Walker
Like James Dean, Paul Walker loved cars and car racing so much, he died behind the wheel. Walker’s best-known for appearing in the Fast and Furious films but he also enjoyed racing cars, like in the Redline Time Attack racing series, where he raced a high-performance BMW M3 E92. Even though he wasn’t behind the wheel, Walker died in the passenger seat of pro-racer, Roger Rodas’ Porsche.
6. Frankie Muniz
The Malcolm in the Middle child actor cashed in acting for auto racing in 2005, when he competed in and won the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. For a few years afterward, he considered himself a professional auto racer and not an actor. He signed a deal with Jensen Motorsports as a driver, and participated in Atlantic Championship Series races in 2007-2009. Muniz didn’t rank very high in most of his races, but he did win a couple.
5. Steve McQueen
The actor, who had an affinity for motorcycles and sports cars, lived out his racing dreams both on-screen and off. He performed a lot of his own stunts in action flicks like The Great Escape and Bullitt. In 1961, he raced a BMC Mini in the British Touring Car Championship and came in third. He raced his Porsche 908/02 in the 12 Hours of Sebring race and actually won the race. He loved off-road motorcycle racing, too, and lived out those fantasies in the film On Any Sunday. Steve McQueen also owned several cool Porsches and Ferraris, including a Ferrari 250 and a Porsche 256 Speedster.
4. Jason Priestley
Like his co-star Brian Austin Green, The Beverly Hills 90210 star raced cars, but also was a co-owner in a racing team. In the mid-90s, Jason Priestley raced a Toyota Celica All-Trac, then decided to focus on Indiana races like the Indy 500. In 2002, while practicing at the Kentucky Speedway, his open-wheel car crashed into a wall going 180 mph. Lucky for him, the injuries were fairly minor. That didn’t prevent him from joining the Rubicon Race Team, which entered a car into the Indy 500, but it didn’t end up qualifying for the big race.
3. James Dean
James Dean lived fast and died young, all in the name of sports-car racing. In 1955, he purchased a Porsche Super Speedster before he filmed Rebel Without a Cause. He won a race in Palm Springs and came in third overall, in a Bakersfield competition that summer. Before he began filming what was to be his last film, Giant, the studio banned him from racing during that period. Soon after filming ended in September, he drove his Porsche 550 Spyder from Hollywood to Salinas, Calif. (four hours distance) so he could compete in a race up there. But while speeding up the coast, Dean collided head on with another car and died before he reached the hospital.
2. Patrick Dempsey
When the Grey’s Anatomy actor is not on set, he’s moonlighting as a world-renowned race car driver and managing his Dempsey Racing team (formed in 2002). In interviews, Patrick Dempsey stated that if he could quit acting and do racing full time, he would. Dempsey’s driven various Ferraris and Porsches in 86 races all over the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Tudor United Sports Car Series. Even though racing comes with insurance issues, Dempsey’s contract states he’s allowed to race while acting.
1. Paul Newman
Besides acting and owning Newman’s Own, a line of pasta sauces and other food products, Oscar-winner, Paul Newman was also passionate about cars. In 1995, at the age of 70, Newman became the oldest driver to be a part of a first place team at 24 Hours of Daytona. While shooting the 1969 auto-racing film, Winning, Newman caught the racing bug, which would last until his death in 2009. In 1972, his first race as a pro-racer was at the Thompson International speedway. In 1979, he came in second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. He raced Porsches, a Spyder NF-10 and Datsuns, but the latter was his true love–he owned a few of them.