Before harrowing crash, Ryan Newman opened up about his decades of racing

After a scary crash on the final turn of the Daytona 500, NASCAR driver Ryan Newman walked out of Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, holding his two daughters’ hands.

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NASCAR driver Ryan Newman walked out of Halifax Medical Center inDaytona Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, holding his two daughters’ hands.

Roush Fenway Racing/Twitter

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman walked out of Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, holding his two daughters’ hands.

The video of the three leaving the hospital, shared on Twitter, was a relief to see considering just two days before, the racing world anxiously awaited news of Newman’s condition after he was involved in a horrific final-lap crash at the Daytona 500.

“True to his jovial nature, he has also been joking with staff, friends and family while spending time playing with his two daughters,” Roush Fenway Racing said in a statement.

Newman was in the lead on the final lap when disaster struck. Ryan Blaney clipped Newman’s bumper, which spun his blue Ford Mustang out of control. Newman’s car slammed into a wall, was struck by another car, then flipped through the air. When the vehicle finally came to a stop, it was upside down and on fire. The roll cage designed to protect Newman appeared to have been damaged.

NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500

Ryan Newman flips over as he crashes during the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Newman was immediately taken to a local hospital, where it was later revealed that the 42-year-old had suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Newman, who spoke to the Sun-Times before the Daytona 500, has been racing for nearly four decades. In fact, he learned how to drive a car before most learn how to ride a bike.

When Newman was 4½ years old, his parents had him start racing quarter midgets — a miniature car that looks like a go-kart. He has since had a need for speed.

Over the last 20 years, Newman has participated in 657 NASCAR Cup races, winning 18 of them and finishing in the top 10 262 times, including this year’s Daytona 500, in which he finished ninth despite the crash.

Newman spoke more about his passion for racing this week’s Chat Room.

You’re from South Bend, Indiana, so I assume you grew up a Notre Dame fan?

Ryan Newman: “Not at all. I mean not even like 1 percent, not at all. ”

Really?

RN: “No, I was the only kid in high school that had a Miami HurricanesStarter jacket.”

Why the Hurricanes?

RN: “I just didn’t want to — it was anybody but Notre Dame. I didn’t even really like the Hurricanes. We just heard so much about Notre Dame that it just got old, so I went anti-Notre Dame.”

You’ve been racing for nearly four decades now, did you ever think you would make it to this level?

RN: “Did I think about it? Yes. Did I know it? No.”

What do you mean?

RN: “It’s this whole idea of setting a goal, right? Because you have a goal you think you can do something but you don’t know if the followthrough is going to be there or the looks are going to be there or if things are going to fall into place. So I did think it, but you just never know it. And even when it does start to happen — right? — you start to set more and more goals you just keep working on climbing each rung of the ladder.”

What’s the most thrilling race you’ve been a part of and why?

RN: “All of them, really — that’s the crazy answer to it. I mean, the ones that I won without a doubt. Even some of my best races are not the ones that I win. You can have a great race — I remember years agoI raced Jeff Gordon for probably 30 laps at the end of the race for15th but we raced like we were trying to win. So if you’re a fan of racing, that’s one way of looking at it. But in the end, it’s all about the trophy. So every one of them has some kind of special moment.”

What characteristics make a great race-car driver?

RN: “A great race-car driver doesn’t have to win, he can overcome adversity and take a 10th-place car to fifth or fifth-place car to second. I think having a good balance and understanding the mental, the physical and the emotional sides of what it takes to be competitive inside the race car and then the other side of that is having the communication to work with the team to make the car go faster. All those things make you competitive, but even when you’re at100 percent, there could be 10 other teams out there that could be that are still five percent better than you are. So realistically, just making the best of what you got and then pouncing on someone else’s weaknesses.”

How did you get the nickname “Rocket Man?”

RN: “I got the nickname back in the day when I was winning a bunch of poles and I broke a track record at Bristol and they said I rocketed off Turn 2 and they called me ‘Rocket Man’ from there on.”

Do you like that nickname or is it just meh?

RN: “I’m just meh about it. It’s OK. It’s good to have a nickname that’s positive, there’s a lot of nicknames that are negative.”

Like?

RN: ”Swervin’ Irvan [for Ernie Irvan].”

What are some hobbies outside of racing?

RN: “I enjoy old cars, I enjoy hunting and fishing, spending time with my kids, anything outdoors.”

What’s the most-prized vehicle you have?

RN: “The nicest one I got is a 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible. It’s one of four cars used in making the movie, ‘Rain Man’. . . . It was a birthday present when I was 30.”

What’s your dream car?

RN: “I don’t know, I’m pretty good right now, I have quite a few of them.”

How many do you have?

RN: “Quite a few. [Laughs.]”

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