The two men who were most closely involved with the terrifying Daytona 500 crash that ended with Ryan Newman being rushed to the hospital explained how things unfolded from their perspective following the Monday race.
After a frightening couple of hours, NASCAR announced that Newman was in serious condition, but with “not life-threatening” injuries. The entire racing community exhaled, including Ryan Blaney and Corey LaJoie.
Blaney was behind Newman and pushed his fellow Ford driver past Denny Hamlin and into the lead in the final lap of the prestigious race. Then Blaney appeared to lose control after getting a nudge from Hamlin and spun out the 42-year-old Newman.
“We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from (Hamlin). I kind of went low and he blocked that and so I was committed to pushing him to the win and have a Ford win it,” Blaney told reporters afterward.
“I don’t know. We just got the bumpers hooked up wrong and I turned him. I hope he is all right. It looked pretty bad. I was trying to push him to the win. I don’t like saying that things just happen because I feel really bad about it. It was a close one. I just hope Ryan is all right.”
This is when things got scary. Newman’s car got flipped over and landed right in front of LaJoie’s oncoming car with zero time to react. LaJoie’s car crushed Newman’s vehicle, which burst into flames and flipped over multiple times before coming to a stop.
“That’s obviously scary,” LaJoie said after the race. “I got a big push there that last coming to the white. I don’t know who was pushing me and I kind of stalled out and I don’t know who hooked Newman. I was hoping he would kind of bounce off the fence to the left, but he didn’t and I hit him. I don’t know exactly where I hit him. I haven’t seen a replay. It was some scary stuff. Don’t get me wrong. My car was on fire. My seat belts grabbed all sorts of areas, but it was a good day for us. I hope Ryan is OK.”
Here is the final lap of the Daytona 500 in which Ryan Newman's car was flipped at the line.— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 18, 2020
We will continue to keep you updated on his status as we learn more. pic.twitter.com/qkEwQBpoP0
LaJoie added more details Tuesday morning on “Good Morning America.”
“He’s obviously in a serious condition because that’s probably the most vulnerable spot in our race cars that was a really scary wreck,” LaJoie said.
“It was wild, I didn’t even know who I hit because you’re concentrating on trying to get a good finish and nobody knows how fast 200 mph or how light or out of control these cars are. I didn’t even know who I hit or what the extent of the crash was. [It was a] very scary crash but the fact that he’s still with us and trying to make a full recovery is just testament to NASCAR and how safe they’re trying to make these race cars.”
Hamlin’s second straight Daytona 500 victory suddenly became an afterthought and he apologized for the celebrating that did take place while Newman’s status was unknown. Newman was pulled from the car by rescue workers and taken to the hospital. The AP captured the photo of Newman being removed from the car.
NASCAR officials tried shielding fans and cameras from the scary scene with black screens.
“It’s a weird balance of excitement and happiness for yourself, but someone’s health and their family is bigger than any win in any sport. We are just hoping for the best,” Hamlin said.