NASCAR’s top competition official shared the first detailed look Saturday into the timeline and overview of the safety and medical response to Ryan Newman’s severe crash in the final lap of the Daytona 500.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, gave minute-by-minute details of the actions taken after Newman’s No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford absorbed multiple impacts in the trioval area at Daytona International Speedway in Monday’s finish.
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Overall, O’Donnell said the safety and medical personnel in place performed their duties as they were trained to do, but he also said competition officials would continue to learn and implement changes as needed as the investigation continues.
"Everything that goes on at the R&D Center on a day-to-day basis is put in place for a reason, and I’m not to say anything to high-five each other, it’s more about: This is our job," O’Donnell said Saturday from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "This is what we do and we’ve got 40 drivers in the garage area who expect us to do that each and every day. So we’ll continue to do that. I’m certainly proud of the folks that we have on our team, but I think you’d hear them all say that we can continue to improve, and we’ll do that."
Newman lost control after a push from Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Ford during their final-lap contest for the lead. His car made contact with the outside retaining wall, then went airborne after a collision with Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 Ford. The Newman entry landed on its roof, skidding to a halt near the pit-road exit.
O’Donnell said the initial safety trucks arrived 19 seconds after Newman’s car had stopped and just two to three seconds after one of the last remaining finishers had passed the wreck site. O’Donnell said one of the three trauma doctors assigned to the Daytona safety team arrived at the car 33 seconds after it had stopped, and a paramedic entered the vehicle just two seconds later.
The decision to roll the car back onto its wheels was made at the 4:05 mark, O’Donnell said. The car was righted at the 6:56 mark, and the extrication team began cutting the car to ease Newman’s path out of the cockpit. The roof was removed at 11:10, O’Donnell said, and the 42-year-old driver was removed at 15:40 then transferred to the ambulance, which took him to Halifax Health Medical Center for further treatment.
O’Donnell said doctors and paramedics attended to Newman throughout the safety response, except for when the vehicle was rolled over back onto its wheels.
Roughly three hours after the crash, O’Donnell provided an update at the track through Roush Fenway stating Newman was in serious condition, but his injuries were not life-threatening. Tuesday, Roush Fenway indicated Newman was awake and speaking with doctors. Wednesday, less than 48 hours after the wreck, Newman was released and walked out of the hospital, holding hands with his daughters.
NASCAR officials did not provide updates on the nature of Newman’s injuries or his current medical condition, citing privacy laws. Roush Fenway Racing is scheduled to hold a press conference at the track Sunday at 12:45 p.m. ET.
John Bobo, NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations, said Newman would need clearance by doctors before he would be able to return to competition. Xfinity Series regular Ross Chastain is filling in for Newman in the No. 6 Ford this weekend at Las Vegas.
Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR Senior Director of Safety Engineering, also provided a brief overview of the crash investigation process, which he said began at the race track with detailed pictures of the exterior and interior. Both the No. 6 and No. 32 cars were taken to the R&D Center for further review.
Patalak said competition officials would review the safety systems, specifically how they performed separately and collectively, then sync all the data sources – ECU, data recorders and telemetry – with all available video for a comprehensive picture of the crash.
From there, Patalak said, NASCAR officials would work with Roush Fenway and outside experts "as we continue to investigate and look forward to being able to provide more information sometime soon." O’Donnell added that Newman’s feedback, his engineering expertise and his advocacy for safety would be key in determining next steps.
O’Donnell said he did not foresee changes to NASCAR’s overtime rules or caution-flag procedures, but he did say the superspeedway package used at Daytona and sister track Talladega Superspeedway would be evaluated. The next race with superspeedway rules is scheduled April 26 at Talladega.
"I think it’s fair to say it’s still early in terms of as we look through this, but we’re going to look at everything and anything in terms of the speeds," said O’Donnell, referring to practice speeds that crept toward 205 mph at Daytona. "The liftoff, you’ve heard me say many times before, we never want a car to get airborne so we’ll look at how that occurred around the speeds. We’ll look at the racing procedures we have in place as well.
"All of those will be on the table as we look to head into Talladega, and if we need to make adjustments around the aero balance and speeds as it relates to safety, we’ll do that."