TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It will be exactly 3 months since his horrific Daytona 500 crash that Ryan Newman gets back behind the wheel for his return to racing on Sunday. It’s also the first real racing for NASCAR since the pandemic paused their season in March.
Miraculously the Cup Series veteran suffered only a head injury, which he called a “bruised brain,” and was out of the hospital in two days. The physical recovery from that crash may be obvious, but the psychological aspect was even more significant for Newman.
“The mental recovery I believe was more challenging than the physical recovery,” Newman said. “The physical recovery wasn’t that difficult. It really took more time than anything and then that challenges you mentally to get through and be able to focus on the next steps.”
As a result of Newman’s crash, NASCAR has increased safety measures in the cars even more, implementing two extra roll bars and an oil flow valve. Newman, who studied engineering at Purdue, has long been an advocate for making the cars safer every year and is glad to see another change made to ensure the drivers safety.
“NASCAR continues to take steps with or without accidents like that,” Newman said. “That’s what’s made me be alive. This situation after Daytona wasn’t just a reaction to what happened because I passed. It was a reaction to what happened because I lived through it and the ability to communicate– which they’ve done a lot with me personally– to make my race car stronger and safer. And not just mine but everybody’s so that for years to come we can continue to make those improvements– not just being reactive but proactive. We know that there’s always going to be danger with a 3,400 pound moving vehicle at 200 miles per hour.”
Drivers are getting back to real racing after more than two months away from the track, and jumping right back into it at Darlington Raceway– a track known to pose a number of challenges.
In 21 races there, Newman has one pole, an average finish of 12.5 and a best finish of second in 2002. His experience is what makes him so confident in getting back behind the wheel– even without any practice or qualifying, as outlined in NASCAR’s new parameters.
“It’s not a big deal for me,” Newman said. “I hope I prove when the green flag drops that it’s not. You’ve got guys like Matt Kenseth and other guys like say a William Byron who doesn’t have near as many laps at Darlington as I have. Just because I’m coming back from a crash doesn’t mean that I’m incapable. It just means that I have a small challenge ahead of me. But that small challenge to me is less of a challenge than people that have less experience.”