Newman: NASCAR Needs Capability Protocol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 16 2020

Ryan Newman (No. 6 car) tangled with Denny Hamlin (11) and Ryan Blaney (12) on the final lap of February’s Daytona 500. Newman suffered a head injury as a result of the ensuing wreck.(RacinToday/HHP photo by Chris Owens)

CONCORD, N.C. – New safety equipment usually emerges after a horrendous crash such as Ryan Newman’s in this year’s Daytona 500, but the veteran NASCAR driver now believes a protocol should be developed to determine a competitor’s mental capability prior to a race, a season or even a career. 

“We all know that changes every day,” Newman said Thursday. “Some days you’re having good days.  Some days you’re having bad days.  Some days you can hit nine out of 10 free throws and some days you can’t hit but one, but the reality is there is a baseline that’s out there that we all need to have a really good understanding of and that has an effect on the status of an athlete.  I think it’s something we definitely can make smoother as we go forward for everybody.”

During Newman’s recovery from a bruised brain, he experienced no memory or balance problems. He felt great and acted the same way. Newman realized he needed to give the injury time so he would know that it was healed, or “at least healed to the best that it could be.” 

“One of my biggest questions in talking with some of the doctors when they were looking at my brain scans was if they could tell that I was without oxygen for any amount of time,” the 42-year-old Newman said. “They said based off my scans that it looked like I had no signs of lack of oxygen to my brain, which was a great piece of news and feedback. 

“I’ve really felt completely normal since. That doesn’t mean that I was and that’s why when it comes time to having a bruise heal, especially one you can’t see, you have to be extra careful.”

 In the equipment department, Newman noted it was discovered his window net wasn’t secured correctly to where it “was ready for the next shot, so to speak.” He’s also not sure if Corey LaJoie’s car hit his new carbon fiber, zero helmet, but it was severely damaged. 

“Parts of the inside of my car hit my helmet and crushed it, so to speak,” Newman said. “I don’t have any defined video that I can give you a 100 percent answer that says this is exactly the second that this happened, but I see the end result. My helmet did have contact and my HANS did have contact. I was being moved backwards in my seat as his car (LaJoie) was moving me forward. I can’t honestly tell you what percentage of that inertia and those physics that went into the actual action of the crash were being driven by his car hitting me or his car hitting my roll bars.  

“It’s not a fair assessment to say, but everything happened really quick and everything was all in that compartment, basically. I guess it would be like a case of high-quality whiplash that kind of happened when I was hit.”

Newman still plans to talk with one of the medical personnel who treated him in his mangled race car, but whether he will ever know how the pieces in his survival puzzle fit together has yet to be determined. 


(Editor’s note: Deb Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports. The former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene and managing editor of GT Motorsports has also covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today and The Charlotte Observer. The 1990 and 1996 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year has authored five books and hosts the podcast “Racing Now and Then.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 16 2020
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