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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Daytona 500: How Ryan Newman’s last lap ended in flames

There had already been a crash as the final lap began, but because it did not affect the leaders, no yellow flag came out, and the race steamed toward the finish.

By: New York Times |
February 19, 2020 4:35:47 pm
NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman goes airborne after being hit by Corey LaJoie (32) on the last lap of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (Source: USA TODAY Sports)

By Victor Mather

There are 200 scheduled laps in the Daytona 500, but it was the last one of this year’s race Monday that will be most remembered. In a few chaotic moments, Ryan Newman’s car edged into the lead on the final turn, crashed, flipped onto its roof and then was hit broadside by another car. In the fiery aftermath of the accident, Denny Hamlin won the race, the crowd fell silent, and Newman skidded down the track in a shower of sparks and flames.

Newman’s injuries were reported after the race as serious but not life-threatening. On Tuesday afternoon, Newman’s team reported he was “awake and speaking with family and doctors.”

Here’s a moment-by-moment look at what happened.

There had already been a crash as the final lap began, but because it did not affect the leaders, no yellow flag came out, and the race steamed toward the finish. Ryan Blaney (12), in third place, got right behind Newman, in second. Working together with the draft, the two cars blew by the leader, Hamlin, dropping him to third and putting Newman in position to win.

In the final turn of the race, Newman (6) led Blaney and Hamlin. But when Blaney pulled up right onto Newman’s bumper, the trouble began.

Blaney’s car pushed Newman’s No. 6 from behind, sending him spinning right toward the wall.

Once it hit the wall, Newman’s car — facing back down the track — flipped into the air as the other contenders covered the final yards to the checkered flag.

That left him in a precarious position, tumbling through a cloud of smoke into the traffic behind the leaders. His car dropped right in front of the one driven by Corey Lajoie, who later said he had nowhere to go. “I didn’t even know who I hit,” Lajoie told “Good Morning America” on Tuesday morning. “Nobody realizes how fast 200 mph is or how light or how uncontrollable these cars are when they get out of shape.”

Lajoie slammed into the driver’s side of the airborne No. 6 car, sending Newman and the car back into the air.

Newman skidded down the track in a hail of sparks, eventually crossing the start-finish line in ninth place.

Newman came to rest on the apron, immobile and with gasoline — and now flames — rising from his upturned race car. Emergency workers quickly doused the fire, flipped the vehicle back onto its tires, and set to work extricating the injured Newman.

The roof was cut off the car to help get Newman out of it. Screens were used to shield the stretcher carrying him from the crowd.

Ryan Newman, Ryan Newman car accident, Ryan Newman car crash, Ryan Newman injury, Ryan Newman injury update, Daytona 500, NASCAR, NASCAR crashes Rescue workers arrive to check on Ryan Newman after he was involved in a wreck on the last lap of the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway (Source: AP)

By then, the result had become an afterthought. Hamlin edged Blaney in a photo finish to claim his second consecutive Daytona 500 win. Unaware of Newman’s injuries, he and his team celebrated on the track and in the pits. Hamlin later apologized once word of the severity of the crash reached him.

“I had absolutely NO IDEA of the severity of the crash until I got to victory lane,” he wrote on Twitter. “There’s very little communication after the finish and i had already unhooked my radio. It’s not anyone’s fault.”

Newman’s health and recovery, Hamlin said later in an interview in Victory Lane, “is way more important than any victory, no matter how big the race is.”

Newman’s team eventually released a statement in which they said Newman was in serious condition but “the doctors have indicated his injuries are not life-threatening.”

On Tuesday afternoon, they released an update on his condition, saying that while Newman remained a patient at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, he was “awake and speaking with family and doctors.”

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