Ryan Newman: ‘It’s great to be alive’

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Newman walked through the garage Friday at Phoenix Raceway saying “It’s great to be alive. If you looked at my car, it’s a miracle.”

Friday marked the first time Newman has been at the track since his horrific crash on the last lap of the Feb. 17 Daytona 500. Newman was hospitalized for two days before walking out with his two daughters.

Asked what he thought when he later saw his wrecked car: “Just lucky.”

Newman said in a previous statement that he suffered a head injury but no other injuries in the accident. He said Friday that he had no timetable for his return. Ross Chastain has driven the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing since Daytona.

Newman talked briefly to a few reporters as he walked in the garage to the No. 6 hauler.

Newman said Friday that “I feel fine” and that “I’m just really here to support the 6 team and stay integrated with the team and have some fun, obviously. I want to see Ross do well. I’d rather be in Ross’ seat. Just want to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can.

“I got a chance now to watch not just the 6 but the 17 (Chris Buescher) and how they work and the teamwork that goes into that. That is equally as important to me to have the opportunity to see them and watch them perform while I’m not in the racecar. I feel I should take advantage of this crazy opportunity.”

Buescher said that Newman has remained engaged with the team even though he hasn’t been cleared to race.

“Ryan has been very on board and informative with everything going on,” Buescher said. “He has watched races and watched our practices and called into our meetings. He is still helping us. I think him being here will definitely be a positive thing. For one, just for morale and for everyone to see him here and all of that.”

Newman surprised some Ford drivers Thursday night at a Ford event at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium. Corey LaJoie shared a photo of him with Newman and Ryan Blaney at the event.

“That was the first time I have seen Ryan personally,” Blaney said Friday. “I think the first time a lot of us had seen Ryan. That was really cool to see. We sat and talked, the whole Ford group, for an hour, hour-and-a-half once he got there. We talked about a lot of stuff. It was nice to see him.

“He is full Ryan Newman caliber and it is great to see. It was cool to hear some of the process that he went through and some of the doctors that worked on him. They were very extensive with him and he has been passing everything with flying colors which is unheard of and great to hear.”

Joey Logano also was there and said: “You look at that crash and it’s just like, ‘How is he even OK? He’s walking, he’s talking like nothing happened.’ He says his memory’s not foggy. Everything is there. It’s insane.”

Said Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin of having Newman back at the track: “We know that from all the video and pictures we’ve seen, it’s a blessing to be in this position and be talking about when he will get back in the car, especially at this time. I’m really looking forward to it, NASCAR gave us all a good update about where they’re thinking and what they’re looking at moving forward. Really optimistic about where our sport is going on the safety side of things.”