The Daytona 500 ended Monday with Denny Hamlin claiming his second consecutive win and a fiery crash that sent Ryan Newman’s Ford Mustang across the finish line on its roof.
Newman sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries in the crash, Newman’s Roush Fenway Racing team said in a statement late Monday. He was being treated at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The crash occurred on the race’s final lap, with Newman in the lead and another driver, Ryan Blaney, right behind him.
Blaney’s bumper caught the back of Newman’s car, which barreled into a wall and flipped before it was struck by another vehicle.
It took several minutes for Newman’s car to be rolled back onto its wheels.
Newman, who won the 2008 Daytona 500, was placed in a waiting ambulance and taken directly to a hospital. The damage to his Mustang was extensive. It appeared the entire roll cage designed to protect his head had caved.
President Donald Trump, the race’s grand marshal, said he was praying for Newman, who he called a “great and brave” driver.
Drivers were stricken with concern, including a rattled Corey LaJoie, the driver who hit Newman’s car as it was flipping.
“Dang I hope Newman is ok,” he posted on Twitter. “That is worst case scenerio and I had nowhere to go but (into) smoke.”
Hamlin is the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1995 to win consecutive Daytona 500s, but his celebration in victory lane was subdued.
“I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are and number one, we are praying for Ryan,” Hamlin said.
In an interview on Sirius XM NASCAR following the race, Gibbs apologized for the winning team celebration as workers were tending to Newman. The car owner said they were not aware of the severity of the situation.
Runner-up Blaney said the way the final lap shook out, with Newman surging ahead of Hamlin, that Blaney locked in behind Newman in a move of brand alliance for Ford.
“We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 … I was committed to just pushing him to the win and having a Ford win it and got the bumpers hooked up wrong,” he said. “It looked bad.”
Hamlin had eight Ford drivers lined up behind him as the leader on the second overtime shootout without a single fellow Toyota driver in the vicinity to help him. It allowed Newman to get past him for the lead, but the bumping in the pack led to Newman’s hard turn right into the wall, followed by multiple rolls and a long skid across the finish line.
Hamlin’s win last year was a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing and kicked off a yearlong company celebration in which Gibbs drivers won a record 19 races and the Cup championship. Now his third Daytona 500 win puts him alongside six Hall of Fame drivers as winners of three or more Daytona 500s. He tied Dale Jarrett — who gave JGR its first Daytona 500 win in 1993 — Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison. Hamlin trails Cale Yarborough’s four wins and the record seven by Richard Petty.
This victory came after just the second rain postponement in 62 years, a visit from the president, a pair of red flag stoppages and two overtimes. The 0.014 margin of victory was the second closest in race history, and Hamlin’s win over Martin Truex Jr. in 2016 was the closest finish in race history.
That margin of victory was 0.01 seconds. The win in “The Great American Race” is the third for Toyota, all won by Hamlin. Gibbs has four Daytona 500 victories as an owner.
“I just feel like I’m a student to the game. I never stop learning and trying to figure out where I need to put myself at the right time,” Hamlin said. “It doesn’t always work. We’ve defied odds here in the last eight years or so in the Daytona 500, but just trust my instincts, and so far they’ve been good for me.”
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