For the first time since his vicious crash in the Daytona 500, Ryan Newman walked through the NASCAR garage area Friday afternoon.
Newman will be an observer this weekend as Ross Chastain continues to substitute for him in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang. But the 42-year-old Newman shared smiles and some brief chatter with various reporters who walked with him through the Phoenix Raceway garage to his team’s hauler.
“I feel fine,” said Newman in videos posted by both NBC Sports and Fox Sports. “I’m here to spectate and have some fun.”
Newman is being treated for a head injury, and he reiterated there is no timetable for his return. He spent two days in the hospital after the accident on Feb. 17. Phoenix will be Chastain’s third start in the car.
“I’m just here to really support the 6 team and stay integrated with what I can do with the team and have some fun,” said Newman. “That’s really what it’s all about. I want to see Ross do well, but I’d rather be in Ross’ seat. Just want to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can possible for our sponsors and for myself to have a good weekend.”
Calling it a “crazy opportunity” to see how the Nos. 6 and 17 teams work together, Newman said he wants to take advantage of it. While Chris Buescher, who drives the No. 17 Ford, is not new to the Roush company, he is new as a teammate to Newman.
“It’s great to be alive,” added Newman. “After looking at my car (following the crash), it’s a miracle.”
Thursday night, Newman surprised his fellow Ford drivers by making an appearance at a group outing in Tempe, Arizona. Newman spoke with Ryan Blaney, who hit Newman’s car from behind to start the accident, as well as Corey LaJoie, who hit Newman’s airborne car.
“We had no idea that he was going to show up,” said Blaney. “We were having dinner, and he walked in. That was great. That was the first time I have seen Ryan personally — I think the first time a lot of us had seen Ryan. That was really cool to see. We sat and talked, the whole Ford group, for an hour, hour and a half once he got there. We talked about a lot of stuff.
“It was nice to see him. He is full Ryan Newman caliber, and it’s great to see. It was cool to hear some of the process that he went through, and some of the doctors that worked on him. They were extensive with him, and he has been passing everything with flying colors, which is unheard of and great to hear.”
Neither Roush Fenway Racing nor Newman have shared any additional details of his injuries or about his recovery. Newman is not expected to make any scheduled media appearances this weekend.