DAYTONA, F.L. - Ryan Newman flipped across the finish line at the Daytona 500 Monday night. His Ford planted upside down and on fire was a grim reminder of a sport steeped in danger that has stretched nearly two decades without a fatality.
NASCAR fans were shocked and saddened to see Newman's car shooting out flames as he crossed over the finish line.
About two hours after the crash, NASCAR read a statement from Roush Fenway Racing that said Newman is in “serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life-threatening.”
Many breathed a sigh of relief hearing the good news. While Newman’s not in the clear, he is stable.
During the long wait for an update, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his concern. Trump a day earlier attended the race as the grand marshal, gave the command for drivers to start their engines and made a ceremonial pace lap around Daytona International Speedway before rain washed out the race.
Newman was also one of several NASCAR drivers who attended a 2016 rally for Trump in Georgia when he was a presidential candidate.
“Praying for Ryan Newman, a great and brave @NASCAR driver! #PrayingForRyan,” Trump tweeted.
Newman had surged into the lead on the final lap when Blaney’s bumper caught the back of his Ford and sent Newman hard right into the wall. His car flipped, rolled, was hit on the driver’s side by another car, and finally skidded across the finish line in flames.
It took several minutes for his car to be rolled back onto its wheels. Medical personnel used solid black barriers to block the view as the 2008 Daytona 500 winner was placed in a waiting ambulance and taken to a hospital. The damage to his Mustang was extensive — it appeared the entire roll cage designed to protect his head had caved — and officials would not allow his team near the accident site.
Newman, dubbed the ‘Rocket Man,’ is a fan favorite. He’s been in the NASCAR Cup Series for 21 seasons and is in his second season with Roush Fenway, driving the #6 Ford Mustang. Some of his accomplishments include winning the Daytona 500 back in 2008 and being named Rookie of the Year in 2002.
Newman has been hard on NASCAR in the past concerning safety and had harsh words back in 2009 when several cars were involved in a crash at Talladega.
Newman is originally from Indiana, but he now calls Statesville home. He has a degree in Engineering from Purdue University. He's also an avid dog lover and a philanthropist for animal welfare, supporting a spay and neuter clinic in Catawba County and several other organizations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.