- Newman was involved in a terrifying last lap crash in the 2020 Daytona 500.
- The Rocket suffered a brain contusion and doesn’t remember the incident.
- Newman will compete in his 20th Daytona 500 next week.
“If you saw a picture of my helmet, you wouldn’t believe my head is still round.”
Ryan Newman doesn’t believe he should be here taking questions about the final lap of the 2020 Daytona 500, much less preparing to compete in the 2021 edition of the Great American Race.
Newman has watched every angle of his last lap crash with Ryan Blaney and Corey Lajoie and doesn’t understand how he survived it. In fact, he isn’t sure about much at all, simply because he doesn’t remember it.
“I’ve watched every angle that I could possibly watch,” Newman said. “The biggest problem is (that) I don’t have any memory of my own angle, which is the ultimate angle. And that’s gone, and that’ll always be gone, and no matter how many times I watch a replay or a different variation of that memory, it doesn’t change my personal memory because it just doesn’t exist.”
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It was later revealed that the cage of Newman’s chassis was compromised and Lajoie’s car actually struck Newman in the helmet.
Fire response arrived within 19 seconds of the car coming to a stop, paramedics joining them 15 seconds after that. Newman was treated for three minutes in the car and was extracted 15 minutes after the crash.
Newman walked out of the Halifax Health medical facility two days later with what was described as a brain contusion. He did so with daughters Brooklyn and Ashlyn holding each of his hands.
His resolve to return to active competition never wavered and he was cleared to compete by May.
He will return to Roush Fenway Racing this year to contest his 20th season at NASCAR’s highest level. He intends to build on a career that includes 18 victories that includes the 2008 Daytona 500 and 2013 Brickyard 400.
Newman is doing so with no reservations or fear over how last season began, again, because he doesn’t remember what happened.
“God works in mysterious ways, and one of those mysterious ways that I can’t answer is the deletion of that chapter, that part of my hard drive that was that day, so that I can’t remember the potential tragedy that wasn’t,” Newman said. “So, I don’t have any fear because I don’t have any memory, and that was the same analogy I used. If you’ve ever been in a car accident or you know somebody that’s been in a car accident and they were conscious the whole time, they will always carry that fear with them. And I have no memory, so therefore, I have no fear.
“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’m just doing my best to continue and become a Cup champion. That’s the way I feel is I still have another opportunity and God’s given me that opportunity and I’ll enjoy it with my two beautiful girls and our team together.”
Newman is adamant that the crash didn’t fundamentally change who he is, but he couldn’t deny the impact it had on his daily approach.
“People have asked me ‘have you changed,’ and I continually say I haven’t changed, but what happens … it’s a magnifier,” Newman said. “The things that you love, you love more because you were potentially taken or a part of you was taken for even a little bit of time, even. Yeah, it’s opened my eyes and made me more appreciative of a lot of things in life, and probably a little bit more positive and I guess jolly, you could say, in respect to some of the other things that don’t go so well. I feel like it has magnified my personality for all the positive things, and therefore decreased some of the negative things.
“I don’t think that’s considered a change, to me, that’s just an adjustment.”
One year later, at 43-years-old, Newman knows this could be his last chance to compete in NASCAR’s showcase event.
Having already won it once, and nearly winning last year amidst everything else that happened, Newman enters this Speedweeks looking forward and not backwards. There is a chance the ultimate redemption arc could come to fruition.
He wants to make the playoffs again, after having missed it last season. He hasn’t won since 2017 and still has a shot at 20 career wins.
With a Harley J. Earl trophy, Newman is already a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. It’s been a great career by every measurable metric.
And it’s not over yet.
“It would be even more special to come back a year later and to really, in all reality, just to have an opportunity to come as close as we did last year would be amazing as well,” Newman says. “I’ve been around the sport long enough to know there’s drivers that have never even gotten 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. So just being in the hunt again will be an amazing feeling, hopefully, and all the things that go along with it.”
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