“NASCAR–America’s Great Race-Ghastly Finish”
It was over in a split second…the race and a possible life.
In a split second, the likely winner-nearly lost his life.
It was over in split second, the Daytona 500, but memory will linger for a long time..
NASCAR’s marquee event has become a demolition derby, and a threat to everyone, drivers, fans, pit crews. All in the chase for the 1M top prize of the top race, the opening race on the Cup schedule.
Denny Hamlin won the race, it was feared Ryan Newman lost his life.
It was a horrific last lap crash, bringing flashbacks of what happened to Dale Earnhardt Senior years ago, at the same track, at the same finish line..
I saw Earnhardt crash, a head on hit into a retaining wall oh the final lap on his way to a likely win. What I saw happen to Newman was even worse.
And you could tell immediately how bad it was. Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon stopped talking on the Fox telecast, as their silence told the seriousness of the story.. Moments after he crossed the finish line, you could see Hamlin clapping and pounding his steering wheel, in excitement, getting his 3rd win in the historic 500.. Within minutes at Victory Lane there was no celebrating.
NASCAR rescue crews arrived within 3-minutes of Newman’s head on crash-airborne flip-and then collision with another driver. But it took them 20-minutes to get his car flipped back onto its wheels. They put up black screens around the car so no one could see what was going on with the rescue attempt.
Then the media throng was ordered out of the pits, no post race interviews, and a news blackout was unveiled as Newman was rushed to a hospital.
It was all equal to what we saw in the last NASCAR fatality, Earnhardt’s crash that resulted in a broken neck.
In a sport that sells speed (200mph) on straightaways, a sport that urges to wait for the ‘Big One’ a final lap crash, a sport that has upgraded its safety requirements, this still happens, especially on super speedways, like Daytona-and-Talladega.
There were 5-crashes in the final 16-laps of the race. 10-frontrunners were knocked out when there was a crash at the front of the pack. There were only 18-of-40 cars left running on the lead lap when the Newman crash happened.
Pack racing is exciting. but cars tapping each others at those speeds close to 200mph put severyone in jeopardy.
On the final restart in the 500, Newman, Hamlin and Ryan Blaney darted back and forth, top to bottom of the track Newman sling-shotted past Hamlin on the final lap, then as Hamlin made a move to retake the lead, Newman blocked him on the outside, then drifted down to the inside lane to block Blaney-who tapped his rear bumper.
And like that, Newman went sideways, nose first into the retaining wall. At that speed, air got under the car and lifted it into the air as it flipped twice. As it came down upside down it was hit by another car, who had nowhere to go with the car infront of him.
The front end of the car was crushed when it hit the wall. The roof of the car was crushed when it was hit as it was coming down. Newman skidded hundreds of yards upside down, and then caught fire.
When I saw it at first, I feared Newman’s lower extremities were crushed when the front end-the nose end, hit the wall head on. I worried the force of the head on crash could snap his neck, as it did Earnhardt. Then as it cartwheeled down the track, rolling, I feared for the drivers safety trapped in the car. And then the roof was hit by the trailing car, with all that pressure forcing into the driver cockpit.
What should have been a celebration became a somber post-race event. No one can celebrate what Hamlin had just done. All we could think of Newman.
Racing is about speed and thrills, but sadly it is about spills.
Bobby Allison’s career ended in a terrible barrel roll accident. So did Neil Bonnet’s.
Indy car lost icon Dan Wheldon and Greg Moore in horrific modern day crashes.
Formula 1-which nearly ceased operations in the 1950s after a car went into the stands at LeMans, also saw its legend Artyn Senna perish in a crash that scarred the sport.
As night fell for auto racing fans across America, the thrill of victory was replaced by the agony of defeat, or possibly death.
NASCAR will have to figure now how to deal with the speed they sanction, the risks those drivers take, and the outcome of races like this. An accident, a catastrophe, waiting to happen.
Denny Hamlin won. Ryan Newman’s life was in the balance.
The Great American Race is a borderline Great American Tragedy. The sport should not be that way.
Over in a split second on the final lap, a race, and possibly a life.