Ryan Newman continues to feel like a walking miracle after his Daytona 500 accident, in which he says everything aligned in so many ways to spare him greater injury.
However, Newman doesn’t know what part of the last-lap accident knocked him out, and he doesn’t remember most of the race. He has no recollection of the final lap in which Ryan Blaney turned him in the trio-oval and then had his airborne car hit by Corey LaJoie. Newman also couldn’t say whether LaJoie’s car hit Newman himself.
“I do know that parts of the inside of my car hit my helmet and crushed it, so to speak,” Newman said Thursday ahead of his return at Darlington on Sunday. “I don’t have any defined video that I can give a 100 percent answer that this is exactly the second this happened. But I see the end result and that my helmet did have contact, my HANS did have contact, and I was being moved backward in my seat as his car was moving me forward.
“So, 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. Everything happened really quickly, and everything was all in that compartment. I guess it would be like a case of high-quality whiplash that happened when I was hit.”
Transported straight from his car to the hospital that Monday night, Newman was released on Wednesday afternoon. He also has no recollection of his time at Halifax Medical Center and says he was treated in such a way as to keep him calm and that he not know what his condition was.
“They were trying to keep me in a somewhat medically induced coma, from what I’ve been told, and that medicine kind of zoned me out,” said Newman. “So, I don’t really have any memories or recollection of any of my crash until I actually had my arms around my daughters walking out of the hospital.”
“I wouldn’t call it a vegetative state, but I wasn’t a fruit either,” Newman laughed. “I was meant to be relaxed.”
Newman has provided feedback to NASCAR from the accident, and NASCAR officials have worked with his Roush Fenway Racing team to devise new things with the race car. Some of it has been chassis structure, some have been common safety things for all teams, and one lesson has been what happened with Newman’s window net.
“My window net was secured, but it was not secured correctly, to the point that it was still latched, but it was not ready for the next shot, so to speak,” said Newman. “Things like that are part of what we’ve done post-Daytona 500 that will continue on to make NASCAR safer and hopefully other sports safer.”
As for his diagnosis, Newman said there was some confusion about his condition.
“I’ve had doctors tell me that I had a concussion, and then I talked to other doctors who said I didn’t have a concussion,” he said. “Then I went back and talked to the same doctor who said I had a concussion, and he said, ‘No, you really didn’t have a concussion, what you had was this.’ And that’s why I put it in laymen’s terms of having a bruised brain, because everyone knows what a bruise is. You can’t see a concussion, it’s just a medical diagnosis, but a bruise you can see.
“The fact that my brain was injured in this accident to the point it knocked me out, and I don’t remember parts of the accident that day, tells me that something happened. So, I kind of self-diagnosed myself with that bruised brain because the reality is you need to give it time for a bruise to heal, and that’s what I needed, time for my brain to heal.”
Ross Chastain drove the No. 6 Ford in the three races Newman missed during recovery. This Sunday’s race at Darlington will be his first since the Daytona 500, although Newman did participate in a medical test at Darlington, where he ran 30 laps before COVID-19 forced isolation.
Excited to get back in his car, Newman said he had to slow himself down the first few laps as not to crash. Once he settled down, Newman said everything was fine, and he could handle the speed and had no apprehension getting back behind the wheel.
Looking ahead to his return Newman said, “I’m hoping to do every lap and then one more after that. I was ready to do that in Daytona.”