DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Denny Hamlin delivered back-to-back Daytona 500 wins with his third-career victory in the Great American Race, but thoughts quickly turned to Ryan Newman who suffered a horrific wreck in the tri-oval while leading in the final quarter-mile.
As the field came out of Turn 4 for the 209th and final time at Daytona International Speedway, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney hooked bumpers in an attempt to draft past Hamlin and the move resulted in the No. 6 Ford going airborne down the frontstretch.
Newman flipped and was spinning on his roof coming to the finish-line when Corey Lajoie, with nowhere to go, plowed into Newman’s car and vaulted the car into the air. Newman was transported directly to Halifax Health Medical Center as soon as the emergency crew could free him from the car.
Just after 10:00 p.m., NASCAR Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said Newman "was receiving further treatment and evaluation."
"We've been in continual dialogue with the race team and Ryan's family and on behalf of Roush Racing, they've asked us to read a statement and give you an update," O'Donnell continued. "'Ryan is being treated at Halifax Medical Center. He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated that 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 will provide more information as it becomes available.' That's the end of the statement.
"And then on our behalf, we're going to continue to work with the race team and Ryan's family to support them in any way we can. We ask that you respect their privacy, and going forward we'll provide updates as we can. But at this point, our thoughts are with Ryan and his family.
Hamlin, not aware of what was occurring with Newman, completed his burnout on the frontstretch and headed to Victory Lane where he was given the news.
“I think we take for granted sometimes how safe these cars are,” Hamlin said. “We’re praying for Ryan. Worked really well with Ryan through this whole race. Obviously, he got turned right there.
“Proud of our whole FedEx team. I don’t even know what to say, so unexpected. I knew they were going to come with a big run there. My job was to just make sure I didn’t put a block up where they would wreck me so I could make it to another corner. We got to the 12 (Blaney’s) bumper and got the push from there. I knew I was going to give him a big run. The race wasn’t over and obviously it worked out well for us there at the end.”
Hamlin beat Blaney to the line by .014-seconds—the second-closest finish in Daytona 500 history. Hamlin also became the first driver to win consecutive Harley J. Earl trophies since Sterling Marlin in 1994-95.
Chris Buescher finished third followed by David Ragan, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Brendan Gaughan, LaJoie, Newman and Kyle Larson.
But the excitement was quickly subdued as a pall fell over the Speedway because of Newman’s accident.
“We pushed Newman there to the lead, and then we got a push from the 11, and I made a move off 4 on Newman and he blocked it and I kind of went low and he blocked that,” Blaney said. “So then I was committed to just pushing him to the win and trying to have a Ford win it, and I don't know, we just got bumpers hooked up wrong and turned him.
“I hope he's all right. Definitely was trying to push him to a win. I don't want to say, ‘Those things happen’. I feel really bad about it. Man, a close one. But I hope Ryan is all right."
The field completed 20 laps as rain-delayed the race from Sunday. Chase Elliott won the first stage and Hamlin won the second segment in a race that was slowed by nine cautions. Seventeen drivers remained on the lead lap for the third attempt at overtime. Newman had led 14 laps but relinquished the lead on the Lap 196 restart. He and Blaney were making one last run at Hamlin when the accident occurred.
“I knew that I got out there a little too far on the backstretch,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t want to check up and it was just going to increase the run that those guys had. I knew that I wanted to give them the bottom and leave myself the top so I had some options. Great call by my spotter there, (Chris) Lambert to tuck in behind the 12. He told me to get behind the 12 and entering turn three I was able to link up on his bumper, similar to what I did with the 6 (Newman) and I knew I was going to give him a shot or a run was going to be massive and he was going to do something with it.
“I knew it wasn’t over from my perspective. When they got together, I just wanted to get as far away as I could and then once I saw the 12 coming up, I wanted to get to his right-rear like I did with the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) a few years ago and side draft to the line. Things really worked out perfectly there for me at the end. I’m very fortunate to be in this place, but we all have to bow our heads and pray for Ryan Newman. That’s the number one thing we should all be thinking about right now.”