By Dillon O’Toole
I am a lifelong NASCAR fan, so naturally I was excited for the Daytona 500, the first non-exhibition race since the 2019 season finale in November. The race was scheduled for Sunday, February 16th, but was postponed to Monday the 17th when rain forced the event to be delayed after 20 laps had been completed. The race was resumed at 4 PM on Monday and was a good race overall. With the exception of some minor incidents, the first two stages of the race were relatively incident free. This allowed drivers and their crews to focus on race strategy to try and position themselves up front by the end of the race. During the final stage, however, chaos began to ensue. Numerous incidents slowly whittled down the field of prime contenders. The final restart of the race had driver Ryan Newman take the lead until he crashed as the drivers approached the start-finish line, allowing his opponent Denny Hamlin to win his second Daytona 500 in a row, and his third Daytona 500 overall.
Ryan Newman’s crash was much more serious than the people watching initially thought. NASCAR fans are used to seeing cars flip every now and then, especially on tracks like Daytona and Talladega. Many of us have been lulled into a false sense of security when seeing these types of crashes due to the immense safety NASCAR has implemented into these cars. This sense of security instantly vanished as the cameras cut to Newman’s car and the countless safety crew members rushing to the scene. This is not unusual, but what was out of the ordinary was the amount of time that passed without any word of Newman’s condition. Then the replay was shown. His car had turned and slammed into the outside wall, causing it to go airborne. When Newman’s car was coming back down to the track, the driver’s side window of his car was struck by Corey LaJoie’s car, due to Newman’s car being upside down. His car then proceeded to slide across the track on its roof until it finally came to a stop.
This replay brought an immediate feeling of dread to myself and countless other people as we were all reminded of the 2001 Daytona 500. Almost nineteen years ago, Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a crash during the last lap. This was the most recent fatality to occur in NASCAR’s top three series, and many of us feared we just saw the next one. I, along with the rest of the NASCAR community, anxiously waited for news to be released about Newman as he was taken directly to the Halifax Medical Center in Florida. Thankfully, when news did come, it was good news. It was announced that, although Newman’s injuries put him in serious condition, they were not life threatening.
The outpouring of support from those who watch NASCAR and even those who had never seen a race was tremendous to see. This, however, did not stop a small minority of people from bringing politics into this incident. One individual said this on Twitter:
“I don’t want to seem insensitive, but I think this is important #context. A fellow Buttigieger sent me this. Ryan Newman endorsed Donald Trump for president. So many #lgbt #minority #dreamers have been hurt by Trump. Newman deserves SOME bad karma.”
The tweet was accompanied by a link to a Washington Examiner article detailing the political preferences of a number of racers, including Newman. This type of response is completely unjustified. Wishing “bad karma” on someone because they support a politician who you do not support is evil. This was an especially bad take because at the time this person posted this, 8:56 pm, there had been no announcement about Newman’s condition. That announcement came at 10:04 pm from the official NASCAR Twitter account. For all this Twitter user knew, Newman could have died in the crash.
I want to remind everyone that in this extremely polarized time that we are all still human beings. Treat everyone with respect (even if the leaders of our country seem to have forgotten that) and do not wish injury or death to those you disagree with. (I will point out that the poster of this tweet replied to their original tweet and stated that they didn’t wish for Newman to be killed, just that they didn’t wish for Newman to win the race. They also stated that they were praying for his health. This reply still doesn’t make up for the fact that they stated this was deserved karma for supporting Trump.) So to conclude this piece, I want to ask everyone, on both sides of the aisle, to treat each other better, and maybe then we will find that we aren’t as divided as we seem to think.