Ryan Newman awake, talking to doctors, family after fiery Daytona 500 crash

Ryan Newman has endured many terrifying crashes over his 20-year NASCAR career.

His ghastly crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500 on Monday night caused the sport to pause.

The 42-year-old Newman slid across the finish line in a crumpled heap of metal, sparks flying as his car skidded to a halt with fuel pouring onto the track frighteningly close to open flames.

Viewers gasped as track workers placed large black screens around his car and worked to get him out. They had to wait two excruciating hours to finally exhale.

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It took two long hours before NASCAR announced Newman had non-life threatening injuries and was in serious condition at nearby Halifax Medical Center.

Tuesday afternoon, it was announced via Twitter that Newman was awake and speaking to his doctors and family.

Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark released an updated statement Tuesday morning via Twitter saying Newman, who was racing for the organization, is still hospitalized.

“On behalf of Roush Fenway Racing and Ryan Newman’s family, we’d like to thank the NASCAR community for the incredible outpouring of support and compassion for Ryan. Your thoughts and prayers have comforted us all,” Newmark said. “Ryan remains at Halifax Medical Center and we will provide further updates on his condition as they become available.”

Safety crews rushed to Newman’s No. 6 Ford and worked to get the “Rocketman” out of his seat. The car was on fire as it skidded to a stop and had to be turned onto its tires before he could be unstrapped.

Ryan Blaney, who locked bumpers with Newman and turned him sideways, sounded crestfallen afterward. Corey LaJoie, who slammed into Newman’s sideways car at full speed, watched a replay and insisted he had no way to avoid the contact.

Newman’s wreck looked just as awful to the naked eye and arguably worse on replay.

Blaney turned him hard right and into the outside wall. His car immediately flipped and was sliding on its side when LaJoie rammed into it.

Denny Hamlin won the race for Joe Gibbs Racing, his second straight victory in the season opener and third in the last five years.

Breathtaking crashes are common at Daytona International Speedway, where drivers racing for position at 200 mph and in tight quarters often make contact. There have been no fatalities at the track since Dale Earnhardt’s death following a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

NASCAR responded by beefing up safety regulations, mandating head-and-neck restraints and improving the design and development of the cars.

Newman, an Indiana native who graduated with an engineering degree from Purdue, said earlier during Speedweeks he felt renewed in his second year at Roush Fenway Racing and had stopped thinking about retirement.

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Ryan Newman. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Ryan Newman. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

“It’s all about competitiveness and fun,” said Newman, who also announced he and his wife had split after 16 years of marriage. “I want to have fun with my life. If I can have fun in this garage doing it and get paid what I feel like I deserve to get paid, then I’m all for it. It’s got to be fun and it’s got to be rewarding in more ways than one.

“I’m doing it past when I said I was going to do it 10 years ago. I don’t know how to give the answer anymore, I really don’t. I always said 40 and I’m 42 now.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.