Thesp joins Hunt, Wilson in laffer

Long-time racing enthusiast Paul Newman is revving up to lend his voice to Pixar Animation Studios’ “Cars,” helmed by “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life” director John Lasseter.

Newman, who will voice the lead car in the animated laffer, joins Bonnie Hunt, Owen Wilson, Dan Whitney and NASCAR vet Richard Petty.

“Cars” is described as a high-octane adventure comedy that features a wide assortment of autos as characters who get their kicks on Route 66.

Pic is being readied for a 2005 holiday release. Darla K. Anderson (“A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.”) is producing.

As part of Newman’s participation, Disney and Pixar also will sponsor the thesp’s Porsche as he races in the Rolex 24 at Daytona Saturday and Sunday, attempting to break his own record at the age of 79 as the oldest man to ever win a professionally sanctioned race.

Newman landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for winning at Daytona in 1995. He will be racing with Kyle Petty, Michael Brockman and Gunnar Jeannette.

“It’s great to have another shot at Daytona (in the Rolex 24) and to be teamed up with some of the best drivers in the world,” said Newman, who most recently co-starred in DreamWorks’ gangster pic “Road to Perdition.” “We’ve got a competitive car, thanks to Disney and Pixar, and we’re ready for the challenge.”

Newman’s long-time interest in racing attracted Pixar’s filmmakers to the thesp.

“Paul Newman is an acting and racing legend,” Lasseter said. “He is one of the greatest actors of all time, and his love and close association with automobiles makes him the perfect choice for our film.”

“Cars” is the last of the films to fall under the current distribution arrangement between Pixar and Disney. It will be the company’s seventh pic.

Pixar also has the superhero comedy “The Incredibles” bowing in November.

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