FONTANA, Calif — Ryan Blaney should have been celebrating a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500, his second in four years. Instead, he was sick. The way that he finished second in the Great American Race wasn’t the way he had envisioned.
Blaney’s last lap plan was to do anything possible to help his friend and fellow Ford driver Ryan Newman. The Team Penske driver pushed Newman to the lead on the final lap, then despite behind pushed by Denny Hamlin, his mind was fully focused on breaking the push from Hamlin and to drop down to the lone line exiting Turn 4 and to be in position to push.
Newman, moved low to block Blaney’s run and to in turn get the winning push, but the nature of these cars in the air of the draft can sometimes make those plans go awry.
Newman’s car spun off the front bumper of Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, which sent Newman crashing violently into the outside SAFER barrier just prior to the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval. The contact was so heavy, it sent his No. 6 Ford airborne and when he came back down, he was hit by Corey LaJoie No. 32 Ford at full speed in the driver side roof/door area.
Blaney, saw the wreck behind him, then saw the replay after the race and it broke him down.
“It was a big, big range of emotions within 10 minutes,” Blaney said on Friday from the Auto Club Speedway. “It’s tough to watch it. I don’t want to watch it. I don’t want to see the in-car high-speed camera. I don’t want to see that. I did see the wreck, and it’s not comfortable to watch. I don’t think it’s comfortable for anybody to watch.”
Blaney, said that the place Newman was hit was literally the worst spot you could get it in. While it proves the safety of these cars for Newman to walk out of the Daytona Beach hospital two days later, Blaney says that they still need to figure out a way to keep these cars on the ground so they’re not in position to get hit in a place like that.
“It’s definitely not comfortable to watch. I don’t try to watch it.”
Unfortunately, when Blaney’s car was the one behind Newman’s at the time of the incident, folks place blame in the wrong direction.
“I stayed off social media and all that stuff,” Blaney continued. “You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.”
Blaney, took solace in former drivers that took the time to call him and check in on how he was felling during the week after.
“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good.
“Even though it was unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it’s off of your nose. You never wanna see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors but we are also a big family. Ryan (Newman) and I have gotten along really well, and that was just a bad circumstance, and it’s great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams support. That really helped me out.”
Blaney, said he spoke to Newman’s dad on Tuesday and then to Ryan himself when he was released from the hospital a day later.
“That was really nice to talk to him. We only talked for five or 10 minutes, but that did a lot for me talking to him. There were no hard feelings or anything like that. I look forward to seeing him soon. It’s amazing how fast he has recovered from that stuff. Like I said in my little post, I don’t think you will find anyone tougher than that guy. It’s remarkable. As he progressed and got better, it made me feel better as well.”