Even before Ryan Newman visited Phoenix Raceway on Friday, he surprised his fellow Ford drivers at a team-building session at Arizona State University’s football stadium.
Ryan Blaney, who was a central figure in the Daytona 500 wreck that sent Newman flying into the path of Corey LaJoie’s car, was especially happy to see Newman looking fit and healthy after injuries that kept the Roush Fenway Racing driver in the hospital for two anxious nights.
“We had no idea that he was going to show up,” Blaney said. “We were having dinner and he walked in. That was great. That was the first time I’ve seen Ryan personally (since the accident)… I think the first time a lot of us had seen Ryan. That was really cool to see. We sat and talked, the whole Ford group, for an hour, hour-and-a-half once he got there. We talked about a lot of stuff.
“It was nice to see him. He’s full Ryan Newman caliber and it is great to see. It was cool to hear some of the process that he went through and some of the doctors that worked on him. They were very extensive with him and he has been passing everything with flying colors, which is unheard of and great to hear.”
Though the timetable for Newman’s return to racing remains unclear, subject to medical clearances, the driver of the No. 6 Ford provided a one-word answer when asked how he was feeling.
“Lucky,” Newman asserted on Friday morning at the one-mile track. “It’s great to be alive,” Newman said. “If you’re looking at my (wrecked) car, it’s a miracle.”
Newman came to Phoenix as both a cheerleader and observer.
“I’m here just spectating,” he said. “Just having fun. I’m really just here to support the 6 team. Stay integrated with what I can do with the team. Have some fun, obviously. That’s really what it’s all about. I want to see (substitute driver) Ross (Chastain) do well, but I’d rather be in Ross’s seat.
“I just want to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can for our sponsors and for myself to have a good weekend.”
Though sidelined from racing, Newman is using the trip to Phoenix not only to observe his own team in action but also that of teammate Chris Buescher.
“I get a chance now to watch not just the 6 but the 17 and how they work and the teamwork that goes into that,” Newman said. “That’s equally as important to me to have an opportunity to see them and watch them perform when I’m not in the race car.
“I feel like I should be able to take advantage of this crazy opportunity.”