DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin earned his second straight Daytona 500 victory on Monday, but the result was quickly overshadowed by concern for Ryan Newman after he was involved in a fiery wreck near the finish line.
Newman was leading the race during the final lap when his car was bumped and crashed into the wall. The car lifted into the air and flipped before crossing the finish line on its roof, in flames.
A Nascar official said that Newman had been helped from his car and taken by ambulance to a hospital. His condition was not immediately clear after the race, but a subsequent statement said “doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening” and said more information would be provided when available.
“It’s hard to celebrate at a time like this,” Hamlin said in a subdued ceremony in Victory Lane.
The owner of his team, Joe Gibbs, apologized to fans for their post-race celebration, saying, “We did not know the severity of Ryan’s injuries at that time.”
Newman, 42, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner, was leading the race when Ryan Blaney’s car caught Newman’s rear bumper and caused him to lose control. It took several minutes for Newman’s car to be turned back over, and it appeared the roll cage designed to protect his head had caved.
Hamlin surged into the lead after the crash, and Blaney finished in second, followed by Newman’s teammate Chris Buescher. Hamlin’s margin of victory, less than a foot, was the second-smallest in Daytona 500 history.
“I liked the position I was in,” Hamlin said of the beginning of the final lap. “But then Newman got a big push from Blaney and went sailing past me. I still thought I had a chance. I didn’t think the race was over, and then I got a big run to the finish.”
Blaney said he was struggling to maintain control as he pushed Newman toward the finish line. But Newman’s car spun to the right, slammed into the wall, and then was smashed into by the trailing car of Corey LaJoie.
“That is the worst-case scenario,” LaJoie said. “I had nowhere to go but into smoke.”
Blaney was momentarily in the lead, but Hamlin just managed to catch him at the line.
“You always race to win,” Hamlin said. “But you never want to see that.”
The race finished about 28 hours after it began on Sunday afternoon with a command to start engines from President Trump. A series of rainstorms caused a delay after several laps, and the rest of the race was eventually postponed until Monday. It was only the second time in the race’s 62-year history that it had been delayed until the following day.
Just 50 miles of the scheduled 500 miles were logged on Sunday. When the race was restarted at 4 p.m. on Monday, the 40-car field managed to run fairly cleanly for much of the race. But in the final 40 miles, a series of major wrecks took out half the competitors.
The messes forced officials to red-flag the race to a stop, to clean up the track and reset the field.
The crash involving the most cars started when Joey Logano pushed Aric Almirola into the back of Brad Keselowski, who had led for 75 miles. Nearly a dozen cars subsequently piled into the spinning cars.
The race got up and running again and the leaders were about five miles off the finish when Ross Chastain lost control while making a move for the lead and spun into Ryan Preece, Logano and several other contenders. The race was later delayed when three more cars slammed into each other.
That forced the race into overtime, with Hamlin’s Toyota leading a quintet of Fords, with two laps to go. A second crash also occurred on the final lap, well behind the leaders, but officials declined to bring out a yellow flag that would have slowed the field and sealed Hamlin’s place in front. So the race to the final flag continued at full speed.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.