(Reuters) – Denny Hamlin won his second straight Daytona 500 in a photo-finish on Monday but there was little celebrating at Daytona International Speedway after a horrific last lap crash sent Ryan Newman to hospital.
A shocked global motor racing community immediately took to social media to express concern for the 42-year-old before learning the driver’s injuries were non-life threatening.
“Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center. He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening,” said Newman’s team Roush Fenway Racing in a statement.
“We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family during this time.”
Leading with one lap to go Newman, the 2008 Daytona champion, was tapped from behind by Ryan Blaney as they entered the front straight-away, sending his Ford careening into the wall.
The car then flipped and was speared in the driver’s side by a charging Corey Lajoie, sending Newman’s car skidding down the track on its roof with flames streaming from the wreck as Hamlin took the chequered flag for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Emergency crews were quickly on the scene and removed Newman from the mangled wreck. Black tarps were raised around the crash while he was placed in an ambulance and transported to a local hospital.
Fears were eased when an update on Newman’s condition arrived nearly two hours later.
The race was run a day after U.S. President Donald Trump had given the command for drivers to “start your engines” but then postponed due to heavy rain.
Hamlin beat Blaney to the line buy 0.014 seconds, the second smallest margin of victory at what is known as “The Great American Race”.
It marks the third time in five years that Hamlin put his car on Victory Lane in Daytona, joining six other drivers to win the race at least three times.
He also becomes the first since Sterling Marlin in 1994 and 1995 to win back-to-back Daytona 500s.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Peter Rutherford)