DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The build up to the 62nd Running of the Daytona 500 was as big as they come in recent memory. The race was a sell out for the fifth consecutive season, but due to the camping crowd too, this was expected to be the largest February crowd in many years.
Add to that this being the largest purse ($23.6 million) ever and the fact that President Donald Trump would be coming and you get tons of good momentum heading into the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Unfortunately, all that momentum has been taken away.
It started with rain falling right as we were about to take the green flag on Sunday and ends with a tragic accident injuring Ryan Newman.
Rain ended up delaying the start 62 minutes before we finally got going at 4:20 p.m. ET on Sunday. We’d run 20 laps (50 miles) before rain came again. Then, once the track was almost ready to resume the Great American Racing, it rained again, postponing the race to a Monday for just the second time in 62 years.
While we could be celebrating the second closest finish in 62 years of racing too, our attention turns to Ryan Newman.
Newman, had a car to win the Daytona 500 and as he led 14 of the final 26 laps. Denny Hamlin pushed Newman out to the lead on the Lap 196 restart and would ride behind him in tandem for a couple of laps. It was a genius move. It allowed Hamlin, who had no Toyota’s up front for drafting help, to be able to battle it out 1 on 1 for the lead without consequence.
Hamlin, passed Newman on Lap 197 because his car started overheating. Then, a caution would fly right after moving this race into overtime.
We’d see a crash on the Lap 205 restart and have to go to a second OT. On the restart, Hamlin pulled away but Newman had help from fellow Ford driver Ryan Blaney. The Penske driver pushed Newman in tandem, just as Hamlin did to Newman, to blow by Hamlin and take over the top two spots. But, Hamlin jumped in on Blaney and pushed him now through Turns 3 and 4.
Newman, went low to block Blaney as that move cost him unfortunately. Blaney, got into the back of Newman and spun him up the banking in the tri oval and into the outside SAFER barrier. Unfortunately, Corey LaJoie had no where to go and hit Newman in a bad spot of his No. 6 Ford.
Blaney, got a lot of backlash for that move on social media as he wants fans to know that it was in no way intentional.
“We pushed (Ryan) Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and I made a move off 4 on Newman and he blocked it. I kind of went low and he blocked that, so then I was committed to just pushing him to the win and trying to have a Ford win it.
“I don’t know. We just got bumpers hooked up wrong and turned him. I hope he’s alright. Definitely was trying to push him to a win. I don’t want to say those things happen. I feel really bad about it.”
Newman’s car would slide upside down through the tri-oval and come to rest at pit exit. It would remain upside down for several minutes before crews were able to get him in an ambulance and taken straight to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Newman, 42, is an Indiana native and has made 657 career starts in NASCAR’s premiere series and has reached victory lane 18 times. Included in those 18 wins are a Daytona 500 triumph in 2008 and 2013 Brickyard 400 victory too.
He also has 115 top five finishes to go along with 262 top 10’s and 51 poles. He was well known as “Rocket Man” for as good as he was in qualifying.
The South Bend native won 35 of his 51 poles in just his first four full time years in NASCAR. He’d race for Team Penske from 2000 through 2008 before joining good friend Tony Stewart when he formed Stewart Haas Racing for 2009. He’d stay there though 2013 before joining Richard Childress Racing from 2014 through 2018.
Newman, was in just second season with Roush Fenway Racing.