Newman eager to race again after violent Daytona accident

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FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, file photo, Ryan Newman (6) goes airborne after crashing into Corey LaJoie (32) during the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Newman, who suffered a head injury in the season opening Daytona 500, will race Sunday, May 17 when NASCAR resumes its season at Darlington Raceway. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Ryan Newman says he has no memories of his harrowing accident on the final lap of the Daytona 500. He doesn't remember being in the hospital, who came to visit or anything else about his two-night stay for treatment of a head injury.

The first thing Newman can recall is walking out of a Florida hospital holding hands with his two young daughters. When he later watched a replay of the crash, he was flabbergasted by the violence of the wreck.

“As I watched the crash and had to make myself believe what I had went through, I really looked to my dad to say, ‘Hey, did this really happen?’” Newman said Thursday. "It’s crazy. I’m happy I’m here.”

Newman will return to racing Sunday at Darlington Speedway in South Carolina exactly three months after he crashed Feb. 17 attempting to win his second Daytona 500. The coronavirus pandemic allowed Newman additional time to heal and he ultimately missed just three races.

It's a remarkable recovery from a frightful flight down the final stretch at Daytona. Newman was bumped from behind and his Ford Mustang made a sharp right into the wall, went airborne and was hit again by Corey LaJoie as the crumpled wreckage tumbled along the track with Newman inside.

Newman doesn't know if Lajoie's car compromised his cockpit; there is no definitive video showing how his head-and-neck restraint system was damaged or how his helmet was “crushed.”

“I don’t have anything that is conclusive that says that his car hit my helmet. I do know that parts of the inside of my car hit my helmet and crushed it," Newman said. "My helmet did have contact and my HANS did have contact, and I was being moved backwards in my seat as his car was moving me forward.

"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.”