LAS VEGAS — A paramedic was treating Ryan Newman inside his car 35 seconds after the ruined and flaming vehicle came to rest after a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
NASCAR gave a brief timeline Saturday of the response to Monday night’s airborne accident that was so startling many drivers feared him dead. Newman hit the wall and his car went airborne, was hit by another car to send it airborne a second time, rolled upside down and landed on its roof in flames.
“You’ve heard us say this many times, that safety is our primary responsibility,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer.
“Everything that goes on at the R&D Center on a daily basis is put in place for a reason. This is our job. This is what we do, and you’ve got the 40 drivers in the garage area who expect us to do this every day.”
NASCAR said the first fire responder arrived 19 seconds after Newman’s car stopped. A trauma doctor was at the car 33 seconds later and a paramedic entered 2 seconds after that.
Newman was then treated for more than three minutes, NASCAR said. It took roughly two minutes to overturn the car, during which time Newman was still being assisted and the treatment continued as the roof was cut away. The 42-year-old driver was removed from the car 15 minutes, 40 seconds after it halted.
NASCAR revealed its findings from a review that began Tuesday when the cars of Newman and Corey LaJoie, the driver who hit Newman’s car on the driver’s side, arrived at the North Carolina Research and Development Center.
NASCAR said it could not discuss Newman’s health, citing federal privacy laws.
Despite the violence of the crash, the Indiana native nicknamed “Rocketman” walked out of a Florida hospital holding the hands of his two young daughters some 42 hours later.
“During this entire time, doctors and paramedics were attending to Ryan, except for during the car rollover,” O’Donnell said. “The first responders performed their jobs as they were trained. The training systems all worked as were designed.
“We are never satisfied with what took place and we will learn as much as possible and implement those changes, if there are any, as soon as possible.”
Ross Chastain is scheduled to drive Newman’s No. 6 Ford on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Newman’s 649-consecutive races streak dating to the 2002 Daytona 500 will end.
Newman has yet to speak publicly and his team has said nothing about his injuries or his status. Roush said he was in serious condition with non-life threatening injuries late Monday night, but Newman progressed so quickly he left the hospital faster than the team could post updates.
NASCAR said the sanctioning body and Newman’s medical team will have to clear him before he can return to race, but good friend Martin Truex Jr. said Saturday to expect Newman back in his race car soon.
“I feel like he’ll be back before anyone thinks he could. He’s a tough son of a gun,” Truex said. “It was good to see how good a shape he was in, and it was a little surprising as well. He’s got no neck and a big hard head, so that helped for sure.”
Several competitors have talked or texted with Newman and said his wit remained intact, with many making lighthearted jokes at his expense. Many marveled how one of the toughest guys in the garage seemingly walked away unscathed, needing nothing more than his daily fix of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to get out of the hospital.
NASCAR also wants to speak to Newman. Its crash report was limited because it wants feedback from the driver, an engineering graduate from Purdue University.
Newman, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner, has has been involved in several rolls at superspeedways. He has been outspoken about safety and has been fined by NASCAR for criticism it deemed excessive.
Newman also advocated for more support in the cockpit for protection during rollovers. A device now referred to as the “Newman bar” is standard.
“Ryan’s feedback in this will be key,” O’Donnell said. “I think that’ll be a key component as it’s always been throughout the process when he’s been racing.”
O’Donnell also said changes won’t be made to overtime rules as a result of the accident, but work continues dissecting Newman’s crash and ongoing safety efforts.
“Our job now is to have continued dialogue with the drivers, see what happens in terms of this race package,” O’Donnell said. “Were there any changes from Talladega to Daytona in terms of how they raced? How that may have contributed or not to this incident and if we can make some changes we will.”
NASCAR also must balance the fan appreciation of the dangers of Daytona and Talladega with the safety of the show.
“Our job is to get the races in, make them exciting for the fans and not have those kinds of incidents,” O’Donnell said. “So, if we can improve on that, we’ll do that.”