Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 on Sunday, completing a remarkable career comeback from a near-fatal injuries in a sprint car accident five years ago.
He became the first driver in Daytona 500 history to win his first race after recovering from one of the more memorable incidents in the history of the sport.
Ryan Newman was driving the car Hamlin was in when it slammed into the fence. Then he was thrown from the car, sustaining severe leg and ankle injuries.
Newman was transported by air to a hospital, where he was later admitted.
Spokesman Jon Peters said Newman underwent surgery for his leg and ankle injuries and that he was in stable condition. He said doctors are evaluating Newman’s back.
The race was the first in NASCAR history to go on as scheduled after a crash.
The crash occurred on the opening lap of the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race. Hamlin fell behind on the restart and was among the first cars to make contact.
Newman, driving a car not owned by him, somehow avoided a collision with teammate Kasey Kahne but was unable to avoid Hamlin’s car.
“I saw a bunch of smoke, a bunch of sparks,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t know if it was my car or not.”
Kevin Harvick won the race.
On Feb. 17, 2014, Hamlin was a passenger in a sprint car that went out of control, slammed into the fence and flipped upside down. Hamlin was trapped in the car for 45 minutes before paramedics arrived and removed him from the wreckage with critical injuries.
“Getting into my car, I wasn’t thinking about winning the Daytona 500,” Hamlin said. “I was just in the moment and with my job, which is to get in the car and drive fast. It was one of those happy accidents.”
Photos from the 2019 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
Newman is in his fifth season driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. He will be 38 on Monday. Hamlin is 35.
Newman’s No. 41 Chevrolet was the No. 24 car, which Hamlin drove in his first 500 in 2011.
Newman signed with Stewart-Haas Racing, a venture of Gene Haas, the billionaire owner of Haas-CNC racing, after finishing last in 2014 in the last of the 36-car field in the Sprint Unlimited.
Newman has not finished worse than 19th in his six races with SHR. He was 12th in the season-opening Daytona 500 last year.
Newman, the 2009 NASCAR Next Rookie of the Year, started 26 career Cup races and was 14th in points. He had seven top-10 finishes last season.
As for Hamlin, he is now in 12th place in the standings with two victories in seven races this season.
The Daytona 500 has been a race in which Hamlin had struggled. He finished 24th in his rookie season in 2007 and 30th last year. In his 10 career starts in the race, he has three top-10 finishes.
Newman has been in all but four of the 500’s races. He has never finished out of the top 10.
After Hamlin’s win, actor James Woods addressed the incident on Twitter.
Woods wrote, “You drive rage!!”