Like NASCAR, ‘walking miracle’ Ryan Newman gets a restart to savor

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ryan Newman was well on the way to winning the Daytona 500 in February. On the final lap, however, he went to block Ryan Blaney and the cars collided, sending Newman’s Ford Mustang on its roof, where it was then hit by Corey LaJoie, sending Newman airborne and again on its roof, and it finally skidded to a stop near the finish line.

Newman, 42, doesn’t recall that final lap, or the crash, but says now, “I feel like a complete walking miracle.”

Ryan Newman (6) goes airborne after crashing into Corey LaJoie (32) during the Daytona 500.

“Everything aligned perfectly for me to be alive and here with you today,” Newman said Thursday during a Zoom meeting with reporters. “There were multiple miracles that aligned for me to walk out days later with my arms around my daughters.”

It was after Newman walked out of the hospital when he watched his crash.

“As I watched, I looked to my dad to say, ‘Hey, did this really happen?’ It’s crazy. I’m happy I’m here.”

Newman will return to the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series Sunday (3:30 p.m., Fox) at Darlington Speedway with the running of the Real Heroes 400, when the series also makes its return after a two-month break due to COVID-19.

Newman missed just three races before the series was suspended following the March 8 race at Phoenix. He actually passed his test leading to his return during a run at Darlington in late April.

“We went down and did about 30 laps total at speed, two five-lap runs, kind of checked the tires out, then put another set of tires on for a 20-lap run,” said Newman of his test at Darlington. “They wanted to see how I felt in the car. I had no apprehensions getting in the car as far as it’s my favorite race track.

“I just wanted to get that behind me.”

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Newman said he also doesn’t remember anything from his two-day stay at the Halifax Health Medical Center. “That tells me God was involved,” he says.

How bad was the accident? It took track safety members more than 15 minutes to extract him from his No. 6 Ford. Then, doctors put Newman into a medically induced coma. They also inserted a PICC line into his chest to feed blood to his heart.

“I had no idea; I was medically treated to not know,” Newman said when asked how close to death he was following his crash. “They were trying to keep me in a medically induced coma, from what I’ve been told, and that medicine kind of zoned me out, so I don’t have any memories of any part of my crash until I actually had my arms around my daughters walking out of the hospital.”

Ryan Newman

Newman is grateful for the work of the track safety crew and technology.

“I think you can pay a lot of attribution to the safety of the race car, the safety of my helmet and my equipment,” Newman said. “They always say things happens for a reason and this year was only the fourth race that I had on a brand-new style helmet, Arai. It’s a carbon fiber zero helmet that I was wearing, second time I had worn it in Cup competition.

“You name it, everything aligned in so many ways – safety workers, the personnel that were involved that were inside the car with me. Every layer of it there was multiple miracles.

 “I’m just proud of how everybody is united in the past 20 years that I’ve been involved in the sport to make the track safer, the walls safer, the cockpit safer, the seat safer – all the work that has gone into that collectively.”

Newman said he has felt fine the last two months and can’t wait to make a run at Victory Lane, and ultimately try to earn his first series championship while competing for Livonia-based businessman Jack Roush. Newman has 18 career wins, including the 2008 Daytona 500 and the 2013 Brickyard 400. He finished runnerup for the series title in 2014.

“I really just enjoy racing. My dad got me started racing quarter-midgets when I was 4,” Newman said of his father Greg, who owned G&G Auto Repair in Niles, Michigan. “I’m excited about getting back behind the wheel and I have a goal in my life to be a Cup champion and I feel like I am with a team that has the opportunity to do that.”

Real Heroes 400

What: NASCAR Cup Series Race at Darlington Raceway 

When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina

TV: Fox