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Having Cheated Death Twice, Returning Veteran Blames NASCAR’s Grave Flaws for His Inactivity

Published 05/13/2023, 8:20 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

Ryan Newman has had a remarkable career in NASCAR’s top-tier series, securing 18 wins, including 51 poles, 117 top-5s, and 268 top-10 finishes in 725 starts in Cup Series. He was recently named one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers, with his victories including the 2008 Daytona 500 and the 2013 Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, his career has also been marked by two close brushes with death, and as a result, he has become a vocal critic of NASCAR’s safety measures.

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Newman’s return to NASCAR Cup racing has been a slow and cautious one, with his concerns about safety playing a significant role in his decision-making. He has agreed to compete in select races for Rick Ware Racing (RWR) but has refused to race on larger tracks, which he believes are more dangerous. He has also been critical of the Next Gen car’s safety features, stating that he does not believe it is as safe as it should be.

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Despite his concerns about the safety of the Cup Series car, Newman is set to return to the series for select races this season with Rick Ware Racing. His return will begin with the Goodyear 400 at the Darlington Raceway on May 14, followed by races at Richmond, Bristol, and Martinsville. Newman has agreed to race on short tracks, where the speeds are slower, due to his concerns about the safety of the car on larger tracks.

Newman has emphasized that he is taking his re-entry into Cup racing “one step at a time” and will only continue if he is having fun. He said, “I don’t think the (Cup) car is as safe as it should be or as safe as they say it is on the big tracks.


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“I don’t need to be a crash test dummy. I’ve already got two bars named after me. I don’t need a third.” 

He further elaborated, “I know I’m not jumping into a Hendrick car. I know I’m not jumping into a JGR car. But ultimately, with the way the rules are, there’s no reason that it can’t be a competitive or somewhat competitive car.

“From what I understand, the pit stops, the pit crew, is a little bit of a concern. I’m not trying to single them out, but with the way the rules are with the car, I think more emphasis gets put on the potential of your pit crew than the potential of a nut-and-bolt kit that NASCAR gives you.”

That being said, Newman’s concerns are valid considering the horrific experiences he has had in his career.

via Imago

Ryan Newman’s near-death experiences

In 2009, Newman was involved in a violent multi-car crash at Talladega that resulted in a bar, now known as the Newman bar, being added as the secondary cage bar that’s in the driver’s forehead area.

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In that crash, Newman’s car went airborne after being hit from behind in the race’s closing stages, causing the back half of his car to slam into the hood of Kevin Harvick’s car, then twirl and barrel roll several times before stopping upside down. Once the car was turned onto its wheels, the roof had to be cut so he could exit because the roll cage had collapsed and blocked him from exiting through the window.

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In 2020, Ryan Newman was involved in another terrifying crash at the Daytona 500. He appeared heading for his second victory at the track when a push from Ryan Blaney went terribly wrong. His car turned sideways, hit the wall, lifted off the ground, flipped sideways, and an oncoming Corey LaJoie slammed into its roof. NASCAR now requires teams to use two additional roll bar support pieces in the area where Newman’s car was hit in its roof. Newman survived both crashes, but he has since become an advocate for improving safety in NASCAR events.


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Newman acknowledges that he will need to adjust to the shifting mechanism of the current Cup car, as this has changed since he last raced in the series. Despite having cheated death twice, Newman remains committed to his passion for racing. However, his concerns about the safety of the Cup Series car and his refusal to race on larger tracks highlight the need for NASCAR to prioritize driver safety and continue to improve the safety measures in the sport.

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Dasnoor Anand

245 articles

Dasnoor Anand is a NASCAR writer at EssentiallySports who brings a fresh perspective to the world of motorsports. She has always had a knack for writing and a love for cars. For years, she has been a devoted follower of motorsports and is particularly intrigued by the inner workings of Formula 1 teams as well as Stock Car Auto Racing.

Edited By: Nischal Kandpal