NASCAR: Ryan Newman’s Dad Reveals Moment He Knew Severity of Son’s Daytona 500 Crash Last Year

by Jennifer Shea

Racecar driver Ryan Newman’s crash in last year’s Daytona 500 was truly nasty. 

Newman was seconds away from winning the Daytona 500 for a second time when another car bumped his car from behind, pushing it across the line of traffic and against the track’s outer wall. His car flipped over, then took another hit from an oncoming car. That launched his car into the air and down the track, where it landed upside-down. 

Ryan Newman’s Dad Realized It Was Bad

It took rescue workers about 15 minutes to pry the unconscious Newman out of his mangled, flaming car. When they did, they rushed Newman to the hospital, where he was treated for a brain bruise and released after two days.

Watching it all was Newman’s dad, Greg, who had worked for years as a Cup spotter for Newman, the Charlotte Observer reports. The father and son won the 2008 Daytona 500 together as a spotter-driver team.

Greg gave up his role as spotter in 2009. But he still watched the race from the roof above the start/finish line, close to where the spotters are, per the Observer. 

From his perch near the spotters, Greg witnessed his son’s terrible crash. He became the first person to speak on the team’s radio in the moments after the crash.

“Talk to us when you can, buddy,” Greg said. 

There was no response. And that was when Greg knew it was really bad.

“I’ve always been there when anything nasty happened and generally he can speak or at least grasp air or something,” Greg told the Observer. “This one, we didn’t hear anything so we knew it’s not gonna be good.”

Getting to the Hospital ASAP

So Greg walked down to the Turn 4 tunnel, and it was there that he ran into the motorcycle cop. The policeman told him they’d have a car coming soon to take him to the hospital. Greg, anxious about his son, didn’t want to wait that long.

“I asked him what was wrong with his motorcycle,” he told the Observer. “He said, ‘Nothing.’ I said, ‘Well how about you take me?’”

It’s a mile from Daytona International Speedway to Halifax Medical Center. Greg made the trip on the back of the officer’s Harley, wearing blue jeans and flip-flops, clinging to the officer the whole way. 

At the hospital, Greg’s wife Diane joined him. She had been looking after Newman’s two daughters during the race. 

Greg was there, waiting patiently when Newman awoke at 7:30 the following morning. They began to talk, then Greg said, “Do you want a Krispy Kreme doughnut?”

Newman nodded yes. So Greg went to get his son a doughnut.

As Newman returned to racing, fearlessly – he has no memory of the crash itself – Greg was right behind him, supporting him the whole way. Due to coronavirus precautions, Greg is not sure where he’ll be standing at this year’s Daytona 500, but he wouldn’t miss the race for the world.

“I’ll be there somehow,” he told the Observer.