Ryan Newman's injuries could have been a lot worse. The NASCAR driver could have died during the final lap of the Daytona 500 in February, when his No. 6 Ford Mustang went spinning, flipping and flaming through the air.
Instead, Newman was released from the hospital a few days later with what he called a "bruised brain" and returned to racing along with the sport amid the coronavirus pandemic in May. He said he felt "completely normal" a few weeks after the wreck.
"It doesn't get enough credit," Daytona 500 and Sunday's Homestead race winner Denny Hamlin said. "We all need to realize that Newman's crash was the best, right? No long-term injuries or anything like that. Bumps and bruises here and there, but essentially everything did its job."
NASCAR's safety and R&D team didn't do much sitting around and patting themselves on the back amid Newman's miraculous recovery, however. While still at the track, the team launched an investigation into how to further improve car safety, and announced those updates in early May.
"While stock-car racing is inherently dangerous, our safety experts continue to make significant strides in this area," NASCAR SVP of innovation and racing development John Probst said Monday. "Our work in safety is never complete. We view that as an ongoing project for us, and for all our competitors for that matter."
The crash investigation process included taking photos outside and inside the vehicles involved in the wreck. In this case, it was Newman's No. 6 car and Corey LaJoie's No. 32 car, which hit Newman on the driver's side after he spun out.
The safety team also looked at the drivers' restraint systems, as well as information on the incident data recorders and high-speed video cameras, which sit inside the drivers' compartments, to collect crash data. Those findings were then added to NASCAR's collective crash database and evaluated, NASCAR director of safety engineering John Patalak said.
"All of this information that was found from those inspections was compared to the available data and video sources in order to create a step-by-step understanding of the crash sequence," Patalak said.
NASCAR returns on May 17, 2020. After the No. 6 driver survived the crash at the Daytona 500, he will be behind the wheel at Darlington. He's only missed three races because of the COVID-19 pandemic. BY STEPHANIE BUNAO
Monday -- before the sport heads to the next superspeedway race at Talladega this weekend -- officials elaborated on the safety changes, which are primarily aimed at slowing cars down and reducing the likelihood of tandem drafting, the racing maneuver that caused Newman's car to spin out from contact to his rear bumper by Ryan Blaney.