NASCAR safety innovations helped save Ryan Newman’s life

Big Race - Daytona

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It wasn’t a miracle, it was science.

Decades of innovation and hard work behind the scenes was tested in the final lap of Monday’s Daytona 500.

On his way to the finish line, Ryan Newman spun out and crashed. He went airborne and his car engulfed in flames, but after being taken to the hospital with what was described as “serious injuries,” he is up and talking to doctors just a day later – according to Roush-Fenway Racing.

19 years ago, Dale Earnhardt tragically was killed by a similar accident on the same speedway. Since then, the sport committed to making sure that never happened again.

First, protect the neck with the HANS device or head and neck support device.

“The HANS device is actually made out of carbon fiber, a very strong material,” said Willie Allen Racing driver Jackson Boone. “You’ll put it around your neck and it catches the latch and it keeps your neck from going completely forward. That way if there’s an abrupt impact, it won’t give you whiplash or break your neck. “

One of the scariest parts about Newman’s wreck was the flames and the fuel pouring out of his car. NASCAR has made improvements to address that, too.

“A lot of materials in these cars are flame retardant, and that was brought up a lot last night. People were really worried about the fuel leaking out, which believe it or not, these cars actually have a fire bottle that’s under the seat, and there’s a little tab and you pull up and it’ll shoot up fire retardant all over the car if you’re ever on fire,” said Boone.

In addition to the fire bottle, drivers wear flame retardant suits, gloves and neck sleeves.

“It’s not ideal to be on fire, but if you are on fire it’s good to have one of those suits on. There has been a ton of innovation in the field of fire. If you ever get fuel on you or anything like that has really improved over the years.”

Risks are a part of every sport and NASCAR has taken major strides toward making sure they don’t turn fatal.

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