Denny Hamlin never saw Ryan Newman’s car after it flashed across his bumper Monday night.
That’s understandable. Hamlin had the checkered flag in sight and Ryan Blaney to pass after Newman’s car went careening into the wall. As Newman’s car flipped over after hitting the wall, Hamlin was nosing ahead of Blaney for the second-closest Daytona 500 win ever.
After he took the checkered flag, Hamlin radioed to his team asking how Newman was. But Newman’s car hadn’t stopped sliding yet. It came to rest past the exit of pit road as Hamlin was beginning his cool-down lap. And by the time Hamlin got back in front of the grandstands and into victory lane, he still hadn’t seen the severity of Newman’s crash.
“I saw [the crash] for the first time in Victory Lane, which, what a lot of people don’t understand is that once he crossed in front of me, I never saw his car again, so I don’t know what happened,” Hamlin said Friday at Las Vegas. “I didn’t even know he was upside down or anything. I didn’t know that anything had happened really significant until I saw it – I believe that [Fox Sports pit reporter Jamie Little] was there.
“We were kind of waiting to get out and I saw them doing a replay and so they had – right next to the camera man they have a monitor, so I told him to come up to the window so I could watch and at that point I saw how significant it was. That was when I knew this is a major crash and something that we needed to be kind of really, really aware of and then she came over and told me they were going directly to the hospital.”
Newman was released from Halifax Medical Center on Wednesday after he was admitted in serious condition Monday night after the crash. He walked out of the hospital with his daughters when he was discharged, a scenario that seemed almost unfathomable fewer than 48 hours before.
Had Newman’s car stayed pointed in the right direction at full-speed, it’s questionable if Hamlin would have been able to win the race. Hamlin was third before the crash happened as Newman and Blaney had hooked together and blitzed past a vulnerable Hamlin on the backstretch.
Hamlin let that pass happen. He said Friday that he knew he’d be unable to block Newman and Blaney with the momentum that they had.
“When they had a run, I just kind of held my line because I didn’t want – if I start going sideways, then next thing you know, [Newman] starts moving sideways and then [Blaney] is already hooked to him, so he’s probably going to push him sideways into me.
“I just wanted to hold a straight line to let them know that like, hey, pass this way and so when they did, I was able to get back to [Blaney] to slow him and unattach him from [Newman]. When I slowed his momentum, that allowed me to really kind of tuck in behind him. I don’t know if he checked up or not to keep us attached, but once we got attached, I knew that we were going to have a run back on [Newman]. I knew he was going to get there. I didn’t know what was going to happen when he did get there, but certainly it worked out in my favor. I thought I was going to get back around [Blaney] at the line if there was no crash, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get all the way back to [Newman]. I knew that those two were going to jostle and I was just hoping to kind of be in the right place when it happened, and I was.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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