Corey LaJoie has offered details from his point of view of the last lap crash in the Daytona 500, where he hit Ryan Newman’s airborne car.
Speaking on his “Sunday Money” podcast, LaJoie said the accident knocked the wind out of him and left his ears ringing as he slowed down his No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang before climbing out under his own power and dropping to his knees.
LaJoie was on the inside lane and side-by-side with Ryan Blaney fighting for third place when the last lap began, behind Denny Hamlin and Newman. The outside lane broke away into Turn 1, and LaJoie slid in front of Darrell Wallace Jr. in the seventh position.
“I’m like, ew, this is going to be good because we had gapped ourselves enough where we were going to have the run of a lifetime,” recalled LaJoie.
Wallace hit the wall off Turn 2, however, and LaJoie briefly lost his help. He was then picked up in the draft by Kevin Harvick, and they gained a few positions.
“Come out Turn 4, and I’m trying to side-draft the 62 [Brendan Gaughan], so I’m kind of looking out of my left peripheral, and I see probably 100 yards up a light-colored car get hooked right in front of me, and I’m like, ‘Oh, [expletive],'” continued LaJoie. “But here’s the thing, you’re speedway racing, and I can say it now because we know Ryan Newman is in good health – you don’t lift. You just don’t lift because every spot at the Daytona 500 is worth like 20, 25 grand. So, if you lift and lose a few spots, that’s over 50 grand.
“So, I kept it floored, and I tried to favor to the right hoping that whoever hit, because I didn’t know (who) wrecked at this time, was going to go down. It was a wall of smoke, and it was just a little snapshot of the smoke cleared [snaps fingers] like that, and it was, less than a blink of an eye, an upside-down car in my windshield. Because my windshield was already trashed from everything that hits the windshield, so you can’t really see. It’s almost like if you scratched your glasses up really bad, [your] sunglasses, and tried to walk around. That’s what it looks like. So, then you add that to the tire smoke, sparks, all that stuff.
“I hit him, don’t know who I hit, and next thing I know, ears are ringing, I kind of come to, and the windshield on my car’s pushed probably half the distance closer to me than it was originally. And I was like, ‘Oh, hell. That hurt.'”
LaJoie went about getting slowed down as quickly as possible to get out, believing there was a possibility that his car could catch on fire. In pain from the impact and his body going forward into the seatbelts, LaJoie admitted he “didn’t know what the hell’s going on” when he got out.
Social media began circulating a picture of LaJoie on his knees and speculating he was praying for Newman. However, LaJoie clarified that he was in pain and at that time, still was unaware of who he’d hit, where he hit, and how bad it was.
“All I knew was I hit a light-colored car,” said LaJoie. “So, I’m literally sitting there going, ‘Oh, that hurt. Oh, that hurt. That hurt real bad.'”
Once his breath started to come back, LaJoie said he sent up a prayer that he hadn’t been seriously injured or killed. Then he asked the safety personnel where he had finished, which was eighth. Newman was credited with a ninth-place finish.
LaJoie asked who he had hit when in the ambulance on his way to the infield care center, but those who had responded to his car weren’t sure. Even after being released, LaJoie was under the assumption “everyone was accounted for.”
From there, LaJoie was hoping to celebrate his finish with his team but it was when he was speaking to the media that Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports informed him that Newman was being taken straight to the hospital.
“And my heart sunk, especially because I hadn’t seen the replay at this time,” said LaJoie, who was then shown it on a cell phone.
“Then I got sick to my stomach because that left-side roof bar is the most vulnerable part to get hit in the car. And due to a lot of advances made with the chassis, coincidentally a bar that was added because of Ryan Newman’s crash at Talladega when he flipped over and his whole cage on the left-front corner got pushed in when he was driving the 39 (for Stewart-Haas in 2009) – the visor bar is the technical word for it – it is the second bar, essentially where your visor would be in your streetcar. If it wasn’t for that bar in my car, and if it probably wasn’t for that bar in Ryan Newman’s car, then we both would have been in real bad shape.”
Right before LaJoie recorded his podcast, the news came that Newman had walked out of Halifax Medical Center holding the hands of his two daughters. LaJoie credited the work of NASCAR and its R&D Center for the advances in safety and described seeing Newman leave the hospital as ‘a miracle’.
As for LaJoie’s condition, he said he’s OK.