Ryan Newman won’t let last year’s Daytona 500 crash define him

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Ryan Newman understands that some view him only as the driver who survived a horrifying crash at the end of last year’s Daytona 500 and not what he has accomplished in NASCAR.

“You don’t become the most Googled person because I won races,” Newman told NBC Sports. “I became the most Googled person in the year because of what I experienced in that crash and that’s part of today’s society.”

Newman ranked No. 1 among athletes in top-trending searches on Google in 2020 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was No. 2 and Bubba Wallace was No. 3). Newman ranked No. 5 among people in top-trending searches. President Joe Biden was No. 1 in that category.

MORE: “A better person” after Daytona crash, Ryan Newman becomes organ donation spokesman

Newman was headed toward victory in last February’s Daytona 500 when everything changed seconds from the finish line. Newman led and blocked Ryan Blaney. A bump from Blaney’s car sent Newman’s car into the wall. The impact turned Newman’s car upside down and it was launched by Corey LaJoie’s car.

Rescue workers needed about 15 minutes to extricate Newman from the car. He spent two days in a Daytona hospital for what he called a brain bruise before walking out with his two daughters.

Had Newman won that race, he would have been the 12th driver to have scored multiple Daytona 500 victories.

Newman won the 50th Daytona 500 in 2008. That is one of 18 Cup victories he has in a career that includes 51 poles — garnering him the nickname “Rocketman” — and Rookie of the Year honors in 2002, beating Jimmie Johnson for that honor.

Missing for Newman is a Cup championship. He finished second in points in 2014 in the inaugural year of the championship race format. 

The 43-year-old enters his 20th Cup season in the last year of his contract with Roush Fenway Racing. He doesn’t plan on this being his last chance to win that title. He’s one of several driver entering the final season of their contract.

“The reality is any driver that goes out on their own terms has quit, right?” Newman said. “That’s the only way it works. So I’m not quitter. I haven’t achieved my goal ,so the only way I would go out on somebody else’s terms is if they quit me. That’s not good teamwork.

“I’ve got to put myself in position with the right people that have a common goal of winning races and eventually winning a championship. I know that I’m at that place. That doesn’t mean I’ll stay at that place, but I’m at that place.

“As long as I’m capable, in other words, able to do the things I need to on and off the racetrack to be successful, then I’ll continue to do so with the hopes of living out my lifelong dream to be a Cup champion.”

Until then, he’s not ready to focus on a second act to his racing career as Johnson is doing with his racing in the Rolex 24, finishing second this past weekend, and in IndyCar.

“As I’ve said prior to the Daytona crash and post-Daytona crash, (my goal) is just to go out and have fun and to live out a lifelong dream and enjoy the people that are around me that have a common goal,” he said. “That, as I said, can change at any minute or any moment. Fortunately, as it tried to change in February of last year, it didn’t, and I’m still here.”