Ryan Newman: ‘I feel like a complete walking miracle’

Leave a comment

When Ryan Newman went to Darlington Raceway last month as part of the process to be medically cleared by NASCAR, he felt no apprehension climbing back into a car for the first time since his Daytona 500 crash.

I was so excited and ready to go and just kind of prove myself that I actually had to slow myself down and make sure that I didn’t go out there and fence it on the first lap by trying too hard,” Newman said during a zoom media conference this week. “So I never felt like I had to be apprehensive toward it, other than the fact that I wanted to make sure that I didn’t mess up my own test.”

Newman said his first five laps topped last year’s Southern 500 pole speed of 172.487 mph by William Byron.

Newman ran 30 laps that day. He showed no issues from the brain bruise he suffered in the last-lap crash at Daytona that forced him to be hospitalized two days.

He missed three races before the Cup season was suspended by the coronavirus outbreak. NASCAR medically cleared him to race last month and he’ll make his return Sunday at Darlington Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

“I feel like a complete walking miracle,” Newman said.

Newman says that as he reflects on all that came together to protect him during the savage crash.

Track workers attend to Ryan Newman after his crash in the Daytona 500. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“Everything aligned in so many ways,” he said. “The safety workers, the personnel that were involved, that were inside the car with me, spent time with me during and after the crash, every layer of it there was multiple miracles – big miracles and little miracles, in my opinion – that aligned for me to be able to walk out days later with my hands around my daughters and to be thankful, so I can’t answer all of those things and I don’t think anybody can when miracles do happen, but we need to be thankful for that.”

Newman notes that the Daytona 500 was just the second race he had used his carbon fiber helmet.

He said that his helmet was struck in the incident — he’s unsure if it was by Corey LaJoie’s car or something inside his car. Whatever it was, Newman said the contact “crushed” the helmet. In a March 11 interview on NBC’s “Today” show Newman said his car’s roll cage was “compromised” in the accident. NASCAR has since mandated additional support in the car.

“My helmet did have contact and my HANS did have contact, and I was being moved backwards in my seat as (LaJoie’s) car was moving me forward,” Newman said. “So I can’t honestly tell you what percentage of that inertia and those physics that went into the actual action of the crash were being driven by his car hitting me or his car hitting my roll bars. 

“It’s not a fair assessment to say, but everything happened really quick and everything was all in that compartment, basically, and I guess it would be like a case of high-quality whiplash that kind of happened when I was hit.”

Newman said he remembers little about the accident but recalls some of what happened after his car came to stop upside down beyond the exit of pit road. The car was eventually rolled over with Newman inside. Safety workers extricated Newman 15 minutes, 40 seconds after the car came to rest, according to NASCAR.

“I know that I was fighting the medical crew there for a little while and they kind of helped me out in more ways than one,” Newman said. “But I really don’t have any recollection of the last lap and everything after that until I walked out of the hospital with my daughters (two days later).”

When Newman later watched video of the crash, he turned to his dad and said: “Hey, did this really happen?”

Questions remain if he suffered a concussion. Newman said doctors gave him different assessments on that.

“I kind of put it in layman’s terms of having a bruised brain because everybody knows what a bruise is,” Newman said of his injury. “You can’t see a concussion. It’s just a medical diagnosis, but a bruise you can see and the part of your brain or the fact that my brain was injured, I guess, in this accident to the point that it knocked me out and I don’t remember the actual parts of the accident that day, tells me that something happened. 

“So I kind of self-diagnosed myself with that bruised brain because the reality is you need to give time for a bruise to heal. That’s what I needed was time for my brain to heal. I’ve really felt completely normal since, I guess in the last eight weeks no problem, no question. That doesn’t mean that I was and that’s why when it comes time to having a bruise heal, especially one you can’t see, you have to be extra careful.”

Healed, now the focus returns to racing.

NASCAR has granted Newman a waiver should he need it to qualify for the playoffs. He enters this weekend 29th in the driver standings, 54 points out of a potential playoff position.

“We certainly recognize that the easiest path to make the playoffs is win a race,” Kevin Kidd, competition director for Roush Fenway Racing, told NBC Sports. “We’re going to do everything in our power to accomplish that.”

Newman is not phased by returning to run five Cup races in 14 days, starting Sunday.

“I’ve done several races in several days in a row before, that’s no big deal,” he said. “I feel like the way the schedule is set, doing the one-day shows, you wouldn’t be doing something that we physically weren’t capable of or asked upon us by everybody that’s involved, and that’s from driving the race car to the hauler drivers and the pit crews and everybody involved. So I think that’s not a big deal. It’s not an easy ask, but I don’t think that’s insurmountable.”

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

Leave a comment

Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

Leave a comment

After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”