Daytona 500 Ends with Terrifying Crash and Scary Injury

Ihsaan Fanusie, Sports Editor

Tragedy struck in the final lap of the 2020 Daytona 500 on February 16, as driver Ryan Newman crashed and was severely injured. Newman was in critical condition after the crash but was ‘awake and speaking’ by Tuesday afternoon.


Newman crashed in the 209th and final lap, hitting against the sides of the track as well as other cars as his car flipped over multiple times and eventually caught fire. Newman had been in the lead when he collided with another racer and lost control of the car. 


The crowd in Daytona, the pit crew, the officials, and the entire world could do nothing but watch as the car flipped around the track on fire and crashed with several other cars before finally coming to rest. The AMR safety team responded quickly, extinguishing the fire and providing safety services to Newman immediately after the accident.


A major talking point across several different news media since the crash was NASCAR’s commitment to safety. 


A similar situation occurred in the 2001 Daytona 500, when legendary driver Dale Earnhardt passed away on live television in a horrific crash on the final lap. In that case, Earnhardt was killed instantaneously from the crash.


Advancements made in technology along with the addition of new safety measures being enacted by NASCAR have helped raise the standard for safe racing in the league. Among these safety measures are mandatory head and neck restraints and seat belt inspection policies. 


Since the 2001 crash, there has not been a single driver death during a competition in any of the NASCAR competitions.


Several news outlets noted that recent safety rules enacted after the Earnhardt crash helped save Newman’s life in what could have been a deadly crash. 


In fact, in response to Newman’s own campaigning for safer car designs, in 2013, NASCAR added a steel bar between the roof and the windshield of the Gen6 car in order to mitigate damage in crashes. The addition was known colloquially as “the Newman bar.”


Speculation in the week following the crash proposed that the Newman bar may have saved Newman’s life, though this assertion has not yet been confirmed.


Others took the accident as an opportunity to criticize NASCAR’s safety measures. Some have called for a renewed conversation about driver safety in the racing world.


Outside of the tragic crash, this year’s Daytona 500, the 62nd annual competition in the event’s history, was a closely contested race that ended with reigning champion Denny Hamlin once again finishing in first place.


Hamlin won the race by .014 seconds, the second-closest margin of victory in the Daytona 500’s history. This is Hamlin’s third Daytona 500 victory, and his second in a row.


President Donald Trump also made an appearance as the Grand Marshal, as he brought out Air Force One and paced the opening lap in the presidential state car. Dale Earnhardt Jr., son of the late Hall of Fame driver and racer in his own right, waved the green flag to start the race. Both the president and Earnhardt Jr. tweeted their prayers and support for Newman after the crash.


It remains to be seen how the crash will affect the Daytona 500 event moving forward, and what changes it may bring to NASCAR as a whole.