NASCAR driver Ryan Newman says returning in 2020 is the ‘absolute plan’

When the NASCAR season resumes following the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryan Newman is planning to be in the starting grid. Newman, who suffered a serious head injury after crashing his No. 6 Ford in February’s Daytona 500, told FOX Sports he’d be ready to race by May 17, NASCAR’s earliest possible return date.

“That’s the absolute plan for sure,” Newman said. “I am healthy. I have been blessed with another layer of this (coronavirus) situation giving me more time to heal and I look forward to being back in the seat, for sure.”

The last time Newman hit the track is one he’d like to forget. The Roush Fenway driver led the 2020 season-opening race into the final lap before another car bumped his, flipping the No. 6 into the air and onto its roof as the car was engulfed in flames. Medical officials rushed the 42-year-old to nearby Halifax Medical Center, where he stayed overnight but eventually left with no internal organ damage or broken bones.

But while Newman says he’s recovering well and is optimistic for a May return, NASCAR is tempering expectations. The association, per the AP, said in a statement it “shares Ryan’s enthusiasm in a return to the track” but didn’t confirm his medical clearance.

Over Newman’s 19-year career, he’s won 18 Cup series races and the 2002 Rookie of the Year award. Arguably his biggest achievement, though, is his durability: Newman started 649 straight races prior to February’s Pennzoil 400. So, while it’s only been two months since Newman was involved in one of the scariest crashes in recent memory, his career history suggests his ability to return shouldn’t be doubted.

“I am so excited and thankful all at the same time to be healthy and at some point, get back in a race car when the world starts turning again,” Newman said. “And thankful for all the people and support that I’ve got from family, fans, you name it that have prayed for me, you name it, you have given me this multitude of miracles.”

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