Just like many others in the industry, by now, Ryan Newman has seen plenty of replays of his vicious last-lap crash at the end of the 2020 Daytona 500. But Newman admitted this week that all the viewing has nothing to do with reliving the accident but understanding what happened from a safety perspective.
“I’ve watched every angle that I could possibly watch,” said Newman. “The biggest problem is I don’t have any memory of my own angle, which is the ultimate angle, and that’s gone, and that will always be gone no matter how many times I watch a replay or different variation of that replay. It doesn’t change my personal memory because it just doesn’t exist.”
Newman plans to keep studying, whether it’s his crash or those of other drivers. While he miraculously walked out of the Halifax Medical Center two days after his crash with what was described as a brain bruise, Newman has seen some of his good friends lose their lives in racing. But he’s confident many more will continue to be saved if the focus remains on the things that can be improved.
Following Newman’s accident, NASCAR made several competition updates for superspeedway races. Among them was the addition of two roll bars to the cars.
After being spun by Ryan Blaney from the race lead coming to the checkered flag, Newman’s car hit the outside wall and went airborne. While in the air and upside down, it was then struck by Corey LaJoie at full speed. Newman was removed from his car and taken straight to the hospital.
Because of the season shutdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Newman missed just three races while recovering. When NASCAR returned to Daytona in the summer, he went back to the hospital to thank the doctors who attended to him after his February accident. MotorTrend captured the visit for the documentary “NASCAR 2020: Under Pressure,” filmed and released late last year.
In the episode, Newman is told he was not awake when arriving at the hospital. He was given medication, sedated, and needed a breathing tube. The ER physician also revealed to Newman his helmet was cracked and his steering wheel bent.
Having now gone over video and data of his crash, Newman also points to the nature of his helmet and it being the most compromised.
“If I had a picture of my helmet, you wouldn’t believe that my head is still round,” he said.
Without memories of a year ago, Newman doesn’t fear getting back in the car at a superspeedway race. He competed in the summer Daytona race last year as well as both races at Talladega.
“I have no memory; therefore, I have no fear,” said Newman. “But it’s also my passion and my love and what I enjoy doing. It’s a paid hobby. It’s the most amazing job you could ever have, and that’s where my focus is.
“I just am doing my best to continue and try to become a Cup champion. That’s the way I feel — I still have another opportunity, and God has given me that opportunity, and I’ll enjoy it with my two beautiful girls and our team together.”
But that doesn’t mean Newman doesn’t understand how special it would be a year later to be the leader again and make it to the finish line in the Daytona 500.
“I’ve been around this sport long enough to know that there are drivers that have never got a top 10 let alone a top five, or in my case a top 10 on their roof, let alone have a shot at the Daytona 500 the way I did last year,” said Newman. “So just being in the hunt again will be an amazing feeling, hopefully, and all the things that go along with it. Kohler Generators will be there; it’s their first race on a Cup car and an amazing story if we can put all those things together.”