Ryan Newman complained about NASCAR safety before near-fatal Daytona 500 crash

Oliver O'Connell
Getty Images

Ryan Newman, the driver who survived a terrible crash at Monday’s Daytona 500 race, has been a longtime advocate for better safety in NASCAR racing.

In the past, the 42-year-old, who is hospitalised with non-life-threatening injuries, has been a critic of dangerous tracks and the struggle to keep cars on the racing surface.

In 2010 he said that fans should not even go to the track to see races at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama saying that the number of crashes affected the championship and it was "not racing."

While he was fined for those comments by NASCAR, the evolution towards a safer racing environment was already underway.

That journey began after the last driver fatality in 2001. In that incident, Dale Earnhardt tragically died on the final lap of that year’s Daytona 500 in circumstances similar to Mr Newman’s crash.

Since 2001 NASCAR has changed its safety regulations in a number of ways. There has been a focus on the driver and his seat as the starting point for innovations. For example, the introduction of revolutionary seat belts that also protect the head and neck — the Hubbard Head and Neck Support (HANS) devices which reduces pressure on the spine and helps stop whiplash.

Roof flaps have been fitted to make it more difficult for cars to become airborne at the high speeds at which they race. Window nets now shield the driver from debris and protect their arms during a crash.

For the tracks themselves, the walls that surround each of them are now covered in Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers to absorb the energy of any impact. These were rolled out across the NASCAR circuit after crashes at both Atlanta and Daytona speedways in which drivers sustained injuries after hitting concrete walls.

Mr Newman’s life was almost certainly saved by these innovations. His crash — in which he first hit the outside wall, flipped over, caught fire after impacting another car in mid-air, before sliding across the finish line on its roof — would have once been fatal.

His team, Roush Fenway Racing, provided an update on his condition just 24 hours after the crash saying that Mr Newman is now awake and recuperating at the Halifax Medical Centre in Daytona Beach. He has been able to speak with doctors and his family.

Ryan and his family have expressed their appreciation for the concern and heartfelt messages from across the country, Roush Fenway Racing said in a statement. They are grateful for the unwavering support of the NASCAR community and beyond.

President Trump tweeted that he is praying for Mr Newman.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg also sent best wishes and prayers as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Mr Newman's hometown.

Mr Newman is an engineering graduate of Purdue University. He has two daughters with his wife, Krissie, and is a car enthusiast and passionate animal welfare advocate.

Just four days before the crash, Mr Newman announced that he and his wife were amicably separating but would remain friends and continue to run their animal charity, Rescue Ranch.

Read more

Nascar driver in serious condition after horrific Daytona 500 crash

Former Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr involved in plane crash

200mph in a 'brick on wheels': The overlooked skill of Nascar

Fight erupts between two Nascar drivers after incident in qualifying

Nascar chairman France arrested for driving under the influence