DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Ryan Newman, who has played a little golf, took the largest divot of his life yesterday at Daytona International Speedway.
The NASCAR Winston Cup driver from South Bend, Ind., was involved in a horrific crash on lap58 of the rain-shortened Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway that left him sad and with sod in his lap.
The four-car incident started when Ward Burton tapped Ken Schrader's car, sending Schrader across the track into the wall and then into Newman.
Newman's car hit the wall and then whirled down into the infield grass, pirouetted on the right front, cartwheeled three times and came to rest upside down with Newman pinned inside.
Track workers managed to get him out. As he walked to the ambulance he waved to the fans. He was treated and released from the infield hospital.
“I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and got into the wall,” the Purdue engineering graduate said later. “After that, everything happened. Disney World doesn't have one of those [rides], I can tell you that.
“You can't do anything when you've got a wad of sod in your lap. That's what I had. I had a wad of sod about eight inches thick and two feet long sitting in my lap and I couldn't get out of the car. The car dug into the ground pretty hard, too.
“We came off [Turn 4] three-wide and we didn't have any air gap between us. That was all I felt after that. I was pointing toward the wall. I hung on from there. It was a pretty hard hit, and when I saw the grass I figured I was in more trouble than hitting the wall. I was aware of what position I was in, but there comes a time when you lose control and then I was just along for the ride.”
Newman was credited with a last-place finish in the 43-car field, his winnings $169,138.
JUNIOR'S DAY: Dale Earnhardt Jr's quest to become the first driver to win all four Speed Weeks races ran out of juice yesterday.
The battery in his car went dead, grounding him for two laps, starting on lap86. He made up one of them before the race ended.
“We were just doing what we could to stay up front and keep the car handling good,” he said. “I was pretty happy with the track position we had. We were just going to try to keep track position all day and not really get messed around by getting back there in the pack.
“I'm telling you, though, even when I was a couple laps down, I could go right to the front. My car was really, really good.”
Earnhardt led for 22 laps and was running second to eventual race-winner Michael Waltrip when Earnhardt started to lose his electricity and the motor started to miss its spark.
Earnhardt had won Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series race, the second of the two 125-mile qualifying races Thursday and the Bud Shootout Feb. 8. His father, the late Dale Earnhardt, and Bobby Allison are the only other drivers to win three Speed Weeks events in one year, the elder Earnhardt doing it three times.
GOOD AND BAD: Second-place finisher Kurt Busch, like most of his compatriots, was happy to see Earnhardt Jr. have to pit with battery problems, knowing Earnhardt would, again, be the driver to beat otherwise.
“When the 8 car dropped out, everybody's eyes lit up, everyone's foot got heavy,” added Busch, who started 36th.
Busch had mixed feelings about the race finishing under caution.
“It's a shame that it had to finish a little over halfway,” he said. “This is the big race that everybody comes to see. They saw half of it.
“It's a bittersweet finish for us, obviously. It's difficult to accept and to swallow. It's the greatest race we go to every year. It's the beginning of the season for us. You know, whether or not we continued forward, it was the weather's decision.”
NOT BAD, CONSIDERING: Mark Martin started 26th and finished fifth in his backup car, a car he said he hated in the Bud Shootout.
“We didn't have a chance, period,” he admitted. “So to run fifth is pretty darn good. Let me tell you something, for me winning with that car I'd have had to have a gun and a mask. That wouldn't have been right, so to run fifth was really awesome.”