Quiet Not Peaceful After A Wreck Like Newman’s

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 18 2020

Ryan Newman (No. 6 car) tangled with Denny Hamlin (11) and Ryan Blaney (12) on the final lap of Monday’s Daytona 500. Newman’s car would flip and slide up the track on its roof. Many at Daytona International Speedway feared the worst. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Chris Owens)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Silence isn’t golden at a race track. Instead, it’s so loud that it’s deafening.

Such was the case Monday night at the end of the rain-delayed Daytona 500 after Ryan Newman’s terrifying crash that occurred as the field streaked to the checkered flag. It appeared Newman was headed for his second Daytona 500 win when suddenly the push to victory that Ryan Blaney thought he was giving his fellow Ford driver went horribly wrong.

Blaney said the bumpers lined up wrong and the hit sent Newman’s Ford careening into the outside wall. He flipped and while upside down, Corey LaJoie’s Ford rammed Newman’s Ford, sending him airborne. The car crashed onto the speedway on its roof and slid down the track on fire before stopping at the pit road exit. 

Silence engulfed the 2.5-mile speedway, in the grandstand and in the infield media center. There were some boos from the crowd as the victorious Denny Hamlin climbed from his car. Team owner Joe Gibbs later apologized in his post-race interview for his team’s celebration immediately after the checkered flag, saying they were unaware of Newman’s situation.

“We got in the winner’s circle and then that’s when people told us,” Gibbs said. 

 Even though Hamlin’s victory over Blaney was the second closest in Daytona 500 history, his third win in the “Great American Race” and the first time a driver has claimed back-to-back victories in the event since Sterling Marlin in 1995, the victory lane was very subdued.

I worked with Ryan for four years and wrote his biography “Ryan Newman: Engineering Speed” while employed as Penske Racing South’s community/public relations director. My heart sank when I saw the wreck and my phone immediately became very busy with people sending texts, asking for information on the 42-year-old Newman. 

By now, everyone knows that Newman is in serious condition; that doctors at Halifax Medical Center have indicated his injuries are not life threatening. However, the hours before that information was received were agonizingly long and the silence deafening. For those of us who were at Daytona on Feb. 18, 2001 when we lost Dale Earnhardt, the silence was all too familiar and uncomfortable.

I walked into the garage and stood across from Newman’s team transporter. His crew went about their jobs of loading the transporter in silence with stoic faces. They talked to no one and no one talked to them. None of the other crews loading their transporters and pushing their cars through the garage said anything. One of Hamlin’s crew walked over and hugged one of Newman’s crew members. A fan atop the viewing area in the garage yelled for information on Newman. But, again, the silence was deafening.

It was time to go back to the media center and I began going through Tweeter. Those offering prayers for Newman included Kyle Petty, Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Amy Earnhardt, Kyle Larson, ThorSport Racing, Roush Yates Engines, Graham Rahal, Chip Ganassi Racing, Tony Kanaan, Clint Bowyer, LaJoie and Rico Abreu.

“Really hoping our buddy is OK … This is the part of racing we all hate,” Larson Tweeted. 

Bowyer was a little more blunt: “This shit is real. We’re all on the road together doing what we love. Please let @RyanJNewman be OK here.”

Still the silence in the media center was deafening. The only thing that could be heard was the clicking of keyboards on the laptops. 

I thought about the tweet Krissie Newman sent just before the green flag waved on one of the two overtime restarts: “Would love to see my girls in VL, but always praying for a safe race.”

Newman has had more than his share of nasty crashes at Daytona and Talladega. Even before Monday night he’s been airborne, upside down and had his car catch fire at NASCAR’s two largest tracks. However, this one left him with his most serious injuries and probably facing a lengthy recovery. 

Once NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell read the statement from Roush-Fenway Racing on Newman’s condition, the silence in the media center was broken. But until then it was that gut wrenching, deafening silence you hate hearing at a race track.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 18 2020
One Comment

One Comment »

  • sbb says:

    Not life threatening doesn’t mean not life altering. Sending only good thoughts for Ryan Newman to make a complete and total recovery.