Daytona 500

Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and I am so relieved to hear the statement about Ryan Newman.

Jim Rome
February 18, 2020 - 9:27 am
Denny Hamlin

USA Today

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The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest race. As I talked about last week with Chase Elliott, it’s like starting the season with the Super Bowl. And then the Super Bowl was hit with heavy rain on Sunday, so the decision was made to postpone the rest of the race until Monday.

And when Monday came, it was all coming down to the final lap. Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin were all battling for the lead. And then this happened.

 

That is the stuff of absolute nightmares. Newman’s car suddenly went to the right and slammed into the wall, then flipped into the air, landing on its roof and right in the path of Corey Lajoie, who smashed into Newman and flipped him into the air again. And then Newman’s car caught on fire. 

It was so scary, and so surreal. If that happened in a movie, you’d say it was too much, way too Hollywood, took over the top, but it was all too real.

Blaney said afterwards, “We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from (Hamlin). I kind of went low and he blocked that, and so I was committed to pushing him to the win and have a Ford win it. We just got the bumpers hooked up wrong and I turned him. I hope he’s all right.”

Lajoie, whose car collided with Newman’s as the six fell back to Earth found out from a reporter that Newman was going to the hospital. 

You can hear in Lajoie’s voice just how crazy and chaotic it was. He was hoping that Newman would bounce off the fence to the left and then he hit Newman, but didn’t even know where he hit him. There was so much smoke, so much activity, and it’s all happening at a high speed just before the finish of the most important race of the year. 

And it is a reminder of the dangers these drivers face. They make it look easy. They make it look like it’s just about positioning and strategy, but it’s all happening at 200 miles per hour and if one thing goes wrong, disaster can strike. 

As Clint Bowyer tweeted: This shit is real. We’re all on the road together doing what we love. Please let Ryan Newman be ok here.

 That bleep is real. And the good news, the amazing news, is that Newman’s team released a statement last night: “Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center. He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family during this time. We appreciate your patience and cooperation and we will provide more information as it becomes available.”

That is the best news I’ve heard in a long time, because it looked like it was so much worse. I don’t want to understate the fact that he is in serious condition, but the fact that doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening is absolutely huge. It’s incredible. 

Because when I saw the crash, and then the fire, and then reaction from everyone around, it seemed worse. So much worse.

Especially when safety workers were holding up screens so that people could not see Newman as he was being taken to the ambulance. Those screens were just as scary as the crash itself, because of what they represent. 

Again, the fact that Newman’s injuries are not life threatening is such great news. And in the midst of all of this, Denny Hamlin won his second straight Daytona 500 and his third overall. That is an amazing accomplishment that we should be celebrating today, but of course everyone is thinking about Newman.

Here’s the other thing about that ending, and you can hear it in Lajoie and in the other drivers. Initially, they didn’t know how bad it was. It makes sense. If you’re driving at the speed they’re driving, there’s so much going on, you can’t see everything. It’s not like watching at home, where you see the crash and know immediately just how bad it was.

That’s why people who are taking a run at Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing for celebrating initially are missing the point. Yes, they were celebrating. But do you really think that Hamlin and JGR would be celebrating if they knew how bad that crash was? Of course not. That is a completely ridiculous take. 

When Hamlin and the team were celebrating, they were celebrating the fact that he just became the first driver since 1995 to repeat as champion and one of only four who have ever done it. He was just celebrating the fact that he’d won his third Daytona 500. 

Of course it was surreal to see Hamlin and his team celebrating when everyone at home knew how extreme the crash was, but Hamlin and the team didn’t know. 

As Hamlin tweeted: “First a foremost I want to give well wishes and prayers to Ryan Newman. I had absolutely NO IDEA of the severity of the crash until I got to victory lane. There’s very little communication after the finish and I had already unhooked my radio. It’s not anyone’s fault.” And included the praying emoji and Newman’s nickname, Rocket. 

Joe Gibbs also explained: “When everything happened at the end of the race, I knew that there was a race, but I never even focused over there. I was focusing on our car, and everybody started celebrating around us. So I say to everybody out there, some people may have saw us and said, well, these guys are celebrating when there’s a serious issue going on. So hopefully — I apologize to everybody, but we really didn’t know. We got in the winner’s circle, and then that’s when people told us, later on in the winner’s circle. So I wanted to explain that to everyone. It just makes it so hard. Such a close-knit community. You know everybody. Anyway, just wanted to say and state that for everybody; that’s what took place for us.”

And anyone who wants to criticize them needs to dial it back, because that’s not what they are about. It was awful timing, but not malicious in the least. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and I am so relieved to hear the statement about Ryan Newman.