Steve McQueen had a need for speed and found racing to be relaxing
McQueen liked to go fast. Over 150 mph in a race car kind of fast.
"The King of Cool" was an appropriate nickname for Wanted: Dead or Alive star, Steve McQueen. He was the iconic bad boy during the 1960s and the 1970s. His tough side made him stand out in Hollywood, but that part of him was best shown on the race track.
McQueen competed in various motorsport races throughout his career.
He may be known for playing the role of Josh Randall, the horse-riding cowboy, but McQueen preferred to be in a car. A fast car, to be exact. McQueen even did most of his own stunts: both on motorcycles and in cars.
In a 1959 interview with The Palm Beach Post, McQueen talked about his need for speed.
"Sure, I like to go fast," he said. "It's like any sport. It's a change and it gives me a chance to work off a little steam."
McQueen loved to compete and did so often. He was once in notable races such as Mojave Desert 500 and 12 Hours of Sebring, and even filmed his 1971 classic Le Mans on site of an actual race.
"A good race driver won't try something his car can't do," he said. "These races are for fun, not for keeps. And there's no fun in spinning a good car into a bale of hay."
Having a celebrity at the race track must be pretty intimidating right? Or a fun story at the very least? According to McQueen, when he was at the race track he blended in.
"I'm not sure that the other drivers and mechanics have ever seen me in my TV show," he said. "The show is on the air at 8:30 Saturdays, and if I know my race drivers, that's the time when they are in their garages getting the cars ready for Sunday races."
Over years of races, McQueen had an impressive collection of cars and motorcycles. Some of these models included: a Jaguar XKSS, an Austin Healey "Sebring Sebrite," a Shelby Cobra 289 and many more.
"I feel safer in a race than I do on the freeways around Hollywood," he added.
It wasn't until later that McQueen would decide to take his foot off the gas.
According to an interview with The Courier-Journal, McQueen was testing a new sports car for production purposes when he was in an accident. While going 155 mph, a rear tread "ripped off."
"I wasn't hurt, but I decided I was at the point where I had to choose between racing and living," he said. "And I chose living, man, I dig it."
McQueen was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and was credited with helping get the first organized off-road competitions off the ground.
"You gotta realize what racing cars meant to me to know how much I gave up," he said. "It's one of of my needs, to function as human being and actor. It relaxes me."