NASCAR driver Ryan Newman in serious condition with non-life threatening injuries after fiery Daytona 500 crash

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UPDATE: According to Roush Fenway Racing's Twitter page, Ryan Newman is awake and speaking with family and doctors.

 

DAYTONA, Fla. — Ryan Newman, leading the final lap of NASCAR's Daytona 500, was involved in a fiery crash Monday that saw his car spin and go airborne, flipping several times.

FOX television commentators said Newman was removed and taken directly to a local hospital.

"Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center," according to a statement posted on Twitter by Roush Fenway Racing. "He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening."

The 42-year-old racer is in his 19th full season in the NASCAR Cup series, according to his profile on the association's website. He was the 2008 winner of the Daytona 500 and holds 18 Cup Series wins, according to the website.

Following Thursday's Twin Duel Races, in which Newman finished third in his Koch Industries Ford, he said in a statement "the big one is on Sunday."

Monday's race at Daytona International Speedway in Florida was postponed from Sunday because of inclement weather.

"We had great execution by everybody at Ford to have a good, strong finish here," Newman said in his statement after Thursday's race. "I think we had the top four cars and it's something to look forward to for the 500."

Ford: 'To hear positive news is a relief'

Following news of Newman's update, Mark Rushbrook, the Ford Performance Motorsports global director, said the team was "grateful."

"We had been waiting for information just like everyone else, so to hear some positive news tonight is a relief," Rushbrook said in a statement. "Ryan has been an important part of the Roush Fenway and Ford NASCAR program this past year, and he is so respected for being a great competitor by everyone in the sport."

"The entire Ford family is sending positive thoughts for his recovery, but our first thoughts remain with his family and his team."

Denny Hamlin was named winner Monday, marking his third career win at "the Great American Race," NASCAR's marquee event and first race of the NASCAR Cup season.

This was the 62nd running of the race.

The crash comes almost 19 years to the day since seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. suffered a fatal crash on the final lap of the race, on February 18, 2001.

In an interview with reporters after Monday's race, Hamlin called the accident the "worst-case scenario" in a race.

"We're praying for the best. Ryan's ... a tough guy. We're hoping that he comes out of this good."

In a statement later Monday night, Hamlin said he had "no idea of the severity of the crash until I got to victory lane."

"There's very little communication after the finish and I had already unhooked my radio," he said in a tweet.

Last week, Newman tweeted he would be separating from his wife, Krissie, after 16 years of marriage.

"We will continue to jointly raise our girls, while remaining friends and continuing to work together supporting Rescue Ranch," he wrote, mentioning his animal welfare non-profit. "Thank you for the years of support and friendship. We ask that (our) daughters' privacy be respected at this time."

Focus is on driver

NASCAR drivers are constantly hitting triple digits on the racetrack. Here's a brief look at what the association has done over the years to keep them safe.

According to NASCAR, safety starts at the driver's seat and builds outwards.

"The seat is that driver's office," John Patalak, the senior director of safety engineering said in a video posted on NASCAR's website. "That's where (the driver) has to be at peak performance for three, four, five hours."

Keeping them safe, Patalak says, "is a never-ending process."

Some additions come as proactive measures -- like the laminated windshield which is easy for on-site crew members to tear off.

Other tweaks come after lessons from accidents.

For example, Patalak said their team added toe board foam, which absorbs energy on impact, to the toe board to protect drivers' extremities.

"That reduced loads into the lower legs, ankles and knees of drivers during a frontal impact," he said.

Their seat belts are next level

About 19 years ago, NASCAR began requiring the use of Hubbard's Head and Neck Support --- HANS -- devices which continue to protect drivers today.

The revolutionary invention came from Dr. Robert Hubbard, a professor at Michigan State University, and his brother-in-law and former racer, Jim Downing. Hubbard died in February last year.

The device, according to NASCAR, plays a vital role in stopping the "whip-like head and neck movement" during a crash.

"The HANS reduces the compression forces on the spine present when a driver wearing a helmet is subjected to the (gravitational forces) of an accident," according to the Facebook page of HANS Performance Products.

The device is one piece, stretching through two arms over each side of the driver's torso, the page says, and held in place by the shoulder belts of a safety harness.

"The collar portion is attached to the driver's helmet by tethers, which allow full movement of the helmeted head," it says.

Hubbard was eventually contracted by NASA to develop a similar device for astronauts, the product's page says.

According to the Sports Car Club of America, the device was "massive breakthrough in racing safety and accident survivability."

They've got roof flaps and window nets

A small but powerful addition.

These flaps help prevent cars from going airborne, NASCAR's website says.

The large flaps wrap around a race car's roof and deploy during a crash by preventing too much air from rushing over the car and help blow it upward.

Think of them as "oversized dorsal fins," NASCAR says, getting in the way of the air.

And as for the nets, also easily removable once a driver wants to escape a crash, they're there to protect drivers from debris and to help keep their arms contained during a high-speed impact.

Racetrack walls are covered in steel and foam

NASCAR says the walls that surround each track are covered in Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers.

Those barriers, first introduced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002, help absorb energy upon impact, according to the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The barrier, according to racing sanctioning body INDYCAR, has been "one of the most effective safety measures taken in the racing industry in recent years."

NASCAR began expanding these barriers across tracks in 2015, following Gordon's crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway and another in Daytona International Speedway that left racer Kyle Busch with multiple injuries after he hit a concrete wall.

At the time, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said there was "no greater priority" than getting SAFER barriers everywhere.

"Obviously, we believe the car is as safe as it possibly can be," he had said in March 2015. "There's always new learnings that we can apply, but again, no greater priority for us and the tracks than to implement SAFER."

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