In his first official interview since his Feb. 17 crash in the Daytona 500, Ryan Newman told NBC’s Today Show that his amazing survival was “just a miracle on so many levels.”
“It’s still humbling to watch it and know that I’m sitting here without a headache, which is amazing,” Newman said Wednesday morning while watching a replay on the Today Show set in New York City. “Thankful to so many people … for prayers, for all the things that went into me being safer in that situation.”
Newman walked out of Daytona Beach’s Halifax Hospital just two days after his horrific crash on the 500′s final lap. He remains sidelined and out of his No. 6 Ford Mustang while recovering from what he described as “basically like a bruised brain.”
“Takes time for it to heal,” he said. “I was knocked out, there was a point where I don’t remember a part of the race. Realistically, I just feel so lucky. On so many levels, I feel so lucky.
“If you look at the crash, it’s spectacular in a bad way, right? If you look at the car afterwards, you think about all the things that happened right for me to sit here.”
As for his eventual return to racing, Newman could offer no timetable.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “We’re working on it. As soon as I possibly can.”
Per NASCAR policy, Newman would have to be cleared by a neurologist or neurosurgeon with extensive experience treating head injuries in athletes. A returning driver would have to pass an exam monitored by physicians who would need to validate his preparedness for a return to racing.
In 2014, NASCAR began mandating baseline tests for all drivers, and sends all drivers involved in accidents — regardless of the severity or lack thereof — to the track’s infield care center for an assessment. Starting in 2018, NASCAR’s medical teams have used the King-Devick test on drivers following an accident.
“We have a holistic approach to head injury prevention and treatment,” said a NASCAR spokesman, “involving constant collaboration with leading independent medical experts and teams, comprehensive evaluation protocols, groundbreaking safety innovation and smart adjustments to competition framework. All of those things work in concert.”
As for why Newman would want to get back in a race car after such a death-defying wreck, he gave an answer given many times by many racers over the decades.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s been a little bit painful to be out of a race car. I started racing when I was 4 years old. It’s just who I am.”