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SEELMAN: The Ultimate Happy Ending

Written by 
Published in Racing
Wednesday, 19 February 2020 15:00
Jacob Seelman.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The racing community breathed a massive sigh of relief, and also uttered a collective thank you, on Wednesday with the news of Ryan Newman’s release from Halifax Medical Center.

Forty-two hours after a nightmarish finish to the 62nd annual Daytona 500 — in which Newman’s car was tipped sideways into the outside wall by a bump from Ryan Blaney, flipped over and was slammed by the oncoming Ford of Corey LaJoie in the driver’s side window — it was the happiest of endings.

If we’re all being honest, in the immediate aftermath of the impact Monday night, it was a happy ending that arguably no one believed could be possible considering what Newman went through.

We all wondered, how anyone could survive an impact like that?

Those answers may come in time, or they may not, but what we do know is that Newman not only survived the terrifying crash, he’ll have more days ahead to enjoy playing with his two young daughters.

The fact that we’re even talking about that scenario is remarkable, to say the least.

Shortly after 10 p.m. ET Monday night, Newman was listed in serious condition at Halifax, albeit with non-life-threatening injuries.

That in itself was borderline unbelievable. To see Newman not only upright and smiling, but walking out of the hospital unassisted less than two full days later was — much like the crash itself — beyond comprehension.

It’s a huge testament to the immense safety of NASCAR’s Cup Series race cars, built to cocoon the drivers inside from many different types of impacts. Monday night’s crash, however, was one even tenured onlookers weren’t sure was survivable.

Thankfully, in this case, every bit of safety equipment on Newman’s race car did its job to the extent necessary to keep the South Bend, Ind., native alive and largely uninjured despite one of the worst shunts seen in NASCAR in recent memory.

Yes, we don’t know to what extent Newman’s injuries are at this time, but what we do know is he’s walking, talking and out of the hospital. Even 10 years ago, I’m not sure we’d have been able to say that.

Newman’s release from hospital care is also a testament to the work of all the medical staff, both at the track and inside the Halifax Medical Center, who tended to Newman in the moments, hours and days following the finish of the Daytona 500.

As Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark noted in a Tweet Wednesday afternoon, it was a massive team effort that not only got Newman to Halifax safely, but aided in his quick recovery and ability to be discharged from the hospital.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to many people for what transpired over the last few days,” Newmark wrote. “But a special thanks (goes out) to the incredible care and attention from the staff at Halifax Health Medical Center.”

Of course, with any crash of the magnitude of Newman’s incident, there will always be questions.

Can we make the cars safer in light of this crash? What becomes the path forward for the No. 6 team? Will they be able to rebound and build momentum for Newman when he’s cleared to return to racing?

Chief among them, of course, is the obvious: how did Newman survive the impact from LaJoie’s car?

That’s a question we may never fully know the answer to, but given how things have turned out, I’m not sure it’s an answer we need immediately.

Right now, all that matters is that Newman is still with us, still able to be with his family, and soon enough will be able to race again. In the meantime, Ross Chastain will fill in at the wheel of the No. 6.

Of course, there’s always those who will speculate that Monday night’s crash might cause Newman to ponder retirement. And it very well could. If this writer were in Newman’s shoes, I would certainly take a step back and at least think for a moment before I jumped back in the deep end with both feet first.

But having been around Newman and covered him for multiple years now, I doubt he’ll walk away.

After all, he’s gained a reputation for being “harder to pass than a kidney stone” for his fierce style of competition and never-give-up attitude. Newman is a fighter and I believe you’ll see that on full display again soon.

If he’s able to come back and be competitive, or perhaps even win his way into the playoffs should the opportunity arise, then that would be the ultimate capper to his recent roller-coaster journey.

But even if Newman comes back later in the season and for some reason doesn’t reach the level of performance he did last year, that shouldn’t diminish the importance of getting to this point.

The reality is he’s alive and relatively unscathed.

That, in itself, is already the ultimate happy ending.

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