Daytona 500 ends in near-tragedy

Daytona 500 ends in near-tragedy

Rob Callahan, Staff Writer

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman survives after a horrific crash in the 62nd annual Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. opened up the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series by leading the field to the green flag. He moved to JTG Daugherty Racing over the offseason. Just 20 laps into the scheduled 200 lap event a rainstorm appeared over the Daytona International Speedway and delayed the remainder of the race until Monday afternoon.

When the race resumed under yellow flag conditions there was a round of pit stops which shuffled up the running order. The new race leader was Newman. On lap 26 the green flag came out once again. On lap 59, William Byron was pushed by Stenhouse. leading to Byron going through the grass on the back stretch and hitting the infield wall, ending his race prematurely. After the safety crews cleaned up the crash, the green flag came out with two laps to go in stage number one out of three. Byron’s teammate Chase Elliott won the first stage.

On lap 90, after rookie driver Quin Houff blocked Aric Almirola too hard bringing out a caution, Houff was shoved into the wall by Almirola. There were no other accidents during the stage. Denny Hamlin, last year’s Daytona 500 winner, went on to win stage two. During stage break pit stops, a gas can belonging to Elliott’s crew was accidently dragged from his pit stall onto pit road. New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr., attempting to leave the pits, ran over the can. Truex had driven back down pit road to have his team check his car for any damage, but they did not need to do any repairs and he stayed on the lead lap.

With 28 laps to go, Erik Jones attempted to come to pit road under green flag conditions, but ran into Stenhouse, leaving both vehicles with significant damage. However, race officials did not wave the caution flag. At almost 18 laps to go, Kyle Busch’s engine expired ending his night early. One lap later there was a massive pile-up involving 20 cars. Jimmie Johnson, a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 and 7-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, was involved in the pile-up, ending his final Daytona 500 early.

After a lengthy clean-up during the red flag, the green flag was brought out. With 10 laps still to go, the leader was Newman. On lap 192 another caution came out because of an incident involving Reed Sorenson and Timmy Hill. They went back to racing on lap 196, but on lap 199 a multi car pile-up sent the race into overtime. The drivers only got a few hundred feet past the start-finish line on the first overtime attempt before another caution came out. This incident occurred when Justin Haley got loose, sending Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell into the front stretch grass.

On another overtime attempt, Hamlin started alongside Newman in the front row. During the final lap Elliott spun out, but no caution came out. On the backstretch Ryan Blaney pushed Ryan Newman past Denny Hamlin and into the lead. A few hundred feet before the end of the race Newman blocked Ryan Blaney aggressively which sent Newman into the wall, causing his car to flip over. While upside down, Newman was hit in the driver’s door by Corey LaJoie.

Hamlin won the race by 0.014 seconds over Blaney, the second closest finish in Daytona 500 history. This was Hamlin’s third win in the historic race.Newman passed the finish line upside-down on fire, coming in ninth. The safety crew raced over to Newman’s car where they had to extinguish the fire and extract him out of his race car.

Meanwhile, Hamlin started to do his victory burnout, unaware of the severity of Newman’s accident. When Hamlin arrived in victory lane, the moment was somber and quiet as confetti was released from the sky.

The safety crew put Newman on a stretcher and rushed him to nearby Halifax Medical Center.

“He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening,” Roush Fenway Racing said Monday night.

Newman was released from Halifax Medical Center Wednesday afternoon. Ross Chastain will fill in for Newman in the number 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing said.