INDIANAPOLIS — On Sunday, Ryan Newman announced that as long as NASCAR medically cleared him to do so, that he’d return to his No. 6 Ford whenever the NASCAR Cup Series returned to action. A day later, Newman was officially cleared to make a come back.
Newman, 42, said on Sunday that he felt healthy and was ready to go.
“That’s the absolute plan for sure,” Newman said prior to a fake online race on Sunday afternoon. “I am healthy. I have been blessed with another layer of this situation giving me more time to heal and I look forward to being back in the seat for sure.”
On Monday, Newman said that he tested at Darlington a month ago with a doctor on site. “The stopwatch said I am good,” Newman said of the test.
It’s remarkable that just over two months in passing, Newman went through a severe head injury and cleared to race again.
He was knocked unconscious and suffered a brain injury when he was involved in a frightening last lap accident in the season opening Daytona 500.
Newman, was leading on the last lap and moved low to block fellow Ford driver Ryan Blaney while exiting Turn 4 to protect his lead. What he didn’t know was, Blaney’s plan was to give up his own chance to win but rather push Newman, a driver he considers a friend, to the victory to help secure a win in the Great American Race for the blue ovals. But, the late maneuver to block Blaney’s run, pushed Newman’s back up the track, making heavy impact with the outside SAFER barrier just before the tri-oval of the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
When he hit the wall, the contact was so hard, it sent him caressing back down the track as Corey LaJoie who was traveling at speeds close to 200 mph, hit him in the very worst spot.
Two months later, Newman doesn’t even remember the crash, so much so, he said that if there wasn’t any video evidence that it occurred that he wouldn’t believe that he went through it.
That’s crazy as when it happened, we all feared for Newman’s life at that point. Updates were few and far between in the days following. The vague updates ended up being a blessing when Newman was released from the Halifax Medical Center less than 48 hours before going in. It was determined that he had a head injury but the extent wasn’t known to the public until Newman went on the Today Show on NBC back on March 11.
“All those welds held together, so the guys at the shop did an amazing job. I got hit from behind by a car going 190 miles an hour and it pushed me back but then (Corey LaJoie‘s) car pushed me forward, his car actually hit my seat,” Newman said that day.
“It takes time for it to heal. I was knocked out. There was a point where I don’t remember a part of the race. Realistically, I feel so lucky. On so many levels, I feel so lucky. You look at the crash and you think that is spectacular in a bad way. You look at the car afterwards, you think about all the things that happened right for me to be sitting here.”
Newman, said that NASCAR has gone a great job on the safety aspects and that he’s thankful for that. He also spoke on what went right with the car for him to be alive today too.
“It’s not just me, but there’s a whole group at NASCAR that has done a great job, from the tracks to the safety personnel, the drivers inside the cars, the cockpits, the containment seats that we have,” he said. “There are so many levels of things that happened in the last 20 years that I’ve been a part of the sport that helped me be able to sit here today.
“Just where I was kind of hit sort of speak. The cage was compromised. All those welds held together, so the guys at the shop did an amazing job. I got hit from behind by a car going 190 miles an hour and it pushed me back but then (Corey LaJoie’s) car pushed me forward, his car actually hit my seat. Just lots of things that happened that aligned. The angels aligned and held a really good grip with their hands.”
Now, he’s only missed three races (Vegas, Fontana and Phoenix) and still sits in the top 30 of the NASCAR Cup Series points standings in 29th. If he can get a waiver from NASCAR, which he likely will, all he has to do is remain in the top 30 in the points from here on out and then win a race too, and he will be playoff eligible.
Newman, also said back in March this was an emotional time and that how close he was to being the end of his life.
“It’s emotional, no doubt. I think about the fact that I was that close, but, really in the end, I’m really humbled by the opportunity to continue my life, to be blessed by so many people’s prayers, to be sitting here and hopefully make something of it, enjoy life with my daughters.”
Newman was asked why he would want to return to racing after surviving such a horrific accident.
“I love it,” he said. “Because I’m just 42 right? Really, I love it. It’s been a little bit painful to be out of the racecar, to not being doing what I’ve done for so many years. I started racing when I was 4 years old, 4 1/2 years old. It’s just kind of who I am.”
As for what he told his two daughters, who walked out of the hospital with him hand in hand, Newman told the “Today” show: “Just daddy’s alright. They seem to be completely fine with the fact that I’m still daddy. I think it would be totally different if something else would have happened, but I’m 100 percent who I was, which they were good with.”