Dillon applauds safety of NASCAR Cup cars after Newman wreck

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 06: Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident following the checkered flag during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

For Austin Dillon, there had to be an element of déjà vu in Ryan Newman’s wreck on the frontstretch at the finish of Monday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Dillon himself had suffered a similar experience in the July 2015 race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, when his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet flew into the catchfence near the start/finish line.

There was one major difference, though. Dillon climbed from his car unhurt. Newman, on the other hand, was hospitalized in serious condition and remained at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach until his release on Wednesday. For two hours after the wreck, fellow drivers endured the suspense of not knowing Newman’s condition.

“Obviously, it was definitely weird leaving the track, getting on the plane, and everyone on the plane I was on, my grandfather (Richard Childress) and family, sat and we said a prayer before we took off for Ryan,” Dillon said on Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “Just the eeriness of the whole situation, with the tarps coming out and not knowing was definitely eye-opening as a driver.

“After I tore down the fence (in 2015) and walked out immediately with nothing, I definitely feel like these cars are the safest things out there. But it just goes to show you that you can be impacted in the wrong way, and it can be compromised. We’re going 200 mph around each other, and sometimes force just overtakes what we know is safe.

“I’m very happy that Ryan walked away and walked out of the hospital like he did with his two girls. Man, it definitely makes you stop and think about it a little bit. I’m definitely still proud of what NASCAR has been able to do for the safety of our sport, because that’s probably the worst place you could possibly get hit, where he got hit. For him to be recovering already, it’s just a really good sign.”

Greg Engle