Emerson Newton-John (49), a name that was synonymous with both racing and Hollywood in mid-1990s to early 2000s, officially announces his intent to race in the Radical Cup North America program for the 2024 season. Nephew of since-passed singer/actress Olivia Newton-John, Emerson left his home country of England at an early age to live in Los Angeles, California and didn’t begin his racing career until he was 16, going straight into the Pro 125 Shifter Kart category.
After two impressive years in karting where he dominated the most prestigious race of 1993 to end his short karting career, Emerson was a top-three finalist in the prestigious Elf Winfield driver search in France in 1995 but had to withdraw from the competition due to a technicality. He then became a six-time winner in his one year of the 1997 Skip Barber Formula Dodge series. His final year of racing was in the famed Australian Formula Holden series in 2001, with a second place on debut and two thirds, despite driving for three different teams.
The year 1998 saw Newton-John go to Europe and compete in the ultra-competitive French Renault Megan Cup, where he competed against front-wheel drive sedan specialists, while having to learn all new tracks. This resulted in a win at Paul Ricard, two seconds and a third, clearly displaying both his versatility and adaptability as a racing driver.
After his success in his one abbreviated year of Formula Holden, Newton-John was poised to race in ChampCar in 2002, but all that, along with the world, was put to a halt when the first plane flew into the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001. With the nation trying to heal from a terrible tragedy, the disastrous financial ramifications of that day also left Newton-John without financial backing from his partners for 2002, leaving his racing career at a standstill. His Aunt remained a committed and supportive bystander throughout his career, but Emerson was on his own financially and lacked the business-savvy at that time to overcome the loss of his backers.
Emerson didn’t return to the cockpit for over a decade, unable to put together a program to match his talents. However, in 2012, an opportunity arose with, the then Indy Lights team, Fanforce United, in the Freedom 100 race, an annual race around the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval which came to its end in 2019, before Indy Lights rebranded to the INDY NXT by Firestone series. After two very successful test sessions at Iowa and Putnam for the then 38-year-old, Emerson qualified seventh of 19 cars for the 100-mile race but was taken out on lap four by a crash in front of him.
Newton-John hadn’t touched a race car in over 11 years before being convinced last month by APEX Motor Club co-owner, Matt Williams, to test at his track with their multiple options of cars. Newton-John landed on a Radical SR10 as his ride of choice.
“We were impressed with Emerson’s ability to get up to speed quickly,” explains Matt Williams. “His lap times were quick and consistent throughout the course of the two test days.”
Proving he hadn’t lost an ounce of speed, Newton-John was the fastest that they had seen in a Radical at APEX Motor Club in only a handful of laps. Brimming with confidence after the test, Emerson got in contact with Crown Racing’s Joey Martin, and intends to make his return to motorsports with the 2024 Radical Cup North America season.
“I cannot express how much it meant to me to get back on track after over 11 years away,” explains Newton-John. “I admittedly was a tad nervous that the rust may not have been able to be shaken off this time and that I’d have to just give the dream of reviving my driving career a rest, but to my extremely pleasant surprise, I literally felt immediately at home once I rolled out of pit lane. Within six laps we were running competitive times and I felt really good. By lap 30 we did our best lap of the test, due to the track cooling way down and losing grip. I truly felt like I owned that car for the last half of the test and could do whatever I wanted with it. What a powerful feeling to experience again after so long. The Radical SR10 is a fantastic and fun car, and what a challenging track and awesome facility APEX Motor Club is. I want to thank Matt Williams from APEX for his help and guidance, as well as my best friend and business partner, Andrew Attardo, for helping make this happen. I hope that another 11 years doesn’t go by before I get to drive again! The goal is to be back racing full-time ASAP.”
Much like 2023, the Radical Cup North America series will meet up with the NTT INDYCAR series at four tracks consecutively in the 2024 season: Barber Motorsports Park, Road America, Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, and the Streets of Toronto. The season opener at Sebring International Raceway and the season finale at Sonoma Raceway with be paired with USAC Racing.
Although Newton-John has not officially locked down a program for the 2024 season, a deal with A-list Hollywood celebrities is on the horizon, who are keen to tell his wild racing and life story. In memory of his Aunt, Emerson wants to carry on Olivia’s legacy by partnering with a fitting cancer charity who he can help raise awareness and funding for, using motorsports as his platform.
For more information on Crown Racing or to contact Joey Martin, please email Joey Martin at [email protected] or by phone at 520.900.7586. Crown Racing can also be found online on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by searching “Crown Concepts” or by visiting their website, www.CrownConceptsUSA.com.
Photos: Emerson Newton-John