NASCAR Expert: Advancements in racing safety may have saved Ryan Newman's life

PHOTO: Nascar Media

Experts say racing safety has come along way and drivers could be even more protected starting next year.

Millions watched Ryan Newman’s car crash across the finish line at the Daytona 500 on Monday.

People began to pray that he would pull through.

“I don’t think if that crash had happened even 10 years ago, I'm not sure he would have been alive,” said Steven Cole Smith, contributing editor for autoweek.com.

Roush Fenway Racing says Newman is awake and speaking with family and doctors.

He was rushed to the hospital after being pulled from the mangled car at the Daytona International Speedway.

“Ryan was upside down, kind of tilted to a side. Corey probably hit him at 175 to 180 mph. There’s no way to plan on a computer every single hit and engineer for it,” Smith said.

But Smith, who’s been covering Nascar for 20 years, says safety changes have saved lives.

Take the SAFER barrier around the track in Daytona, it was built to soften the blow when cars fly into the concrete walls.  

“The other thing is the head and neck restraint,” Smith said.

It’s known as the HANS device. It prevents the driver’s head from slamming forward in a crash.

“That was available in 2001,” Smith said. “Dale Earnhardt decided not to use it. By the end of 2001, it was mandatory in Nascar.”

Smith says the bars inside the car and the quality of the material have also improved.

But the contributing editor for autoweek.com tells FOX 35 News come 2021, fans will see an all-new car on the tracks.

“All indications is it’s going to be a safer car than Ryan’s car is,” Smith said.

He says the new vehicle will have a carbon-fiber tub, instead of a cage.

Nascar will also be studying Newman’s car in the aftermath of the crash.

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