We all feared for the worst when Ryan Newman’s last lap crash in Monday’s rain delayed Daytona 500 saw him spin on the lower part of the banking entering the tri-oval and made heavy impact with the outside SAFER barrier which sent him in an airborne spin before coming to rest near the start finish line. Then, he was hit near the driver side window by Corey LaJoie, as LaJoie’s No. 32 Ford was traveling at speeds near 200 mph and had no where to go.
That lifted Newman’s No. 6 Ford airborne once again and slamming back down on the pavement very hard and even catching fire briefly before coming to a rest on the inside of the track just past pit exit.
It took medical workers several minutes to get Newman out of his badly mangled race car before the track reporting that they were going to bypass the infield care center and head directly to the Halifax Medical Center down the road.
That was the only report that we got. The rumors that were floating were grim but unsubstantiated. So, everyone left at the Daytona International Speedway were left silent and numb fearing for the news no one wanted.
Shortly after 10 p.m. locally, NASCAR made an announcement.
Newman suffered serious but luckily non life threatening injures on the final lap of the opening race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. Newman, 42, was leading on the 209th and final lap of the 62nd Annual race and maneuvered low to block Ryan Blaney’s run as the Team Penske driver had a big run on the low line heading into the tri-oval.
Blaney, was there but had no where to go as he was just wanting to push Newman to the win, not crash him.
“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.”
At 10:06 p.m. ET, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, read a statement from Roush Yates Racing giving Newman’s condition. It read that Newman was being treated at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach for serious, non life threatening injuries.
“Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center,” O’Donnell said on Monday night at the Daytona International Speedway. “He’s in serious condition but doctors have indicated his injuries are non-life threatening. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family during this time. We appreciate your patience and cooperation and will provide more information as it becomes available.”
Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports, stated: “We’re grateful for the news about Ryan. We had been waiting for information just like everyone else, so to hear some positive news tonight is a relief. Ryan has been an important part of the Roush Fenway and Ford NASCAR program this past year, and he is so respected for being a great competitor by everyone in the sport. The entire Ford family is sending positive thoughts for his recovery, but our first thoughts remain with his family and his team.”
On Tuesday morning, Roush Fenway Racing gave a brief statement that Newman remained in the hospital but gave no word on his condition. That made everyone fear even more. Did he get worse? Did he remain the same? Did he get better? Nothing was ever said.
Later on in the day, RFR put out another statement that Newman was awake and alert and talking with the medical staff and family. Still, no news on his condition and the brunt of his injuries.
Then, the news we’ve all been praying for occurred on Wednesday morning, RFR put out another statement that Newman not only is doing well, but he’s improving dramatically. “He’s showing great improvement” they say.
“The veteran driver is fully alert and walking around Halifax Medical Center,” RFR’s release stated. “True to his jovial nature, he has also been joking around with staff, friends and family while spending time playing with his two daughters.”
Crisis seem averted. While we still don’t know the nature of his “serious” injuries, RFR tweeted out a picture of Newman with his two daughters standing up and smiling.
It sends the whole racing world in a sense of relief.
Newman, 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.