Now We Can Breathe
As this is written, the NASCAR community and really the entire racing community, is less than 48 hours removed from wondering about the fate of Ryan Newman. Earlier today he walked out of Halifax Health Medical Center hand in hand with his daughters. Details haven't been released about the severity of any injuries but considering what we've seen between that crash on Monday night and today, there's been a collective sigh of relief. It finally seems like an appropriate time to talk about the race and its aftermath.
The NASCAR media deserves a tremendous show of respect in how they dealt with the immediate aftermath of Monday night's crash. In a world of instant news and the rush to be first, great restraint was shown by all and it should be appreciated. It was a very positive contrast to first reactions of Kobe Bryant's recent helicopter crash.
It should be everyone's hope that NASCAR doesn't view Newman's survival as a reason to believe all is well with superspeedway racing. There should be just as much urgency to do whatever it takes to make those events less dangerous than there would certainly have been had he not survived. The sport has really been walking a tightrope without a safety net in this regard. Yes, cars are safer than ever. Yes, there is a certain inherent danger to racing. However, when the question is when will a horrible crash occur, instead of can or will a horrible crash happen, more needs to be done to eliminate that question. It's impossible to fathom how between the sanctioning body, its research and development center in conjunction with the countless engineers employed by the teams, can't find a way to get those cars off the ground and separated from each other on the track.
There was a lot to like about the race. The attendance of the President and First Lady gave Sunday even more of a special feel and certainly brought more attention to the race. TV numbers were great for Sunday. Although the majority of the race ran on Monday, overall the numbers between the two days were positive. Obviously, they would have been better had the race finished Sunday.
Speaking of television, the use of the drone cameras by FOX was very well received. It added an entirely new view, something that is very welcomed. With many viewers wondering lately if FOX was still invested in their coverage, hopefully this is a sign the network is still working to improve their broadcast. Although there will always be detractors, FOX's use of a two-man booth seems to have been received very positively as well.
Although Denny Hamlin didn't have the opportunity to celebrate his Daytona 500 win in the normal way, his accomplishment should not be ignored. Anytime you are mentioned in the same breath as Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough, you have done something special. Hamlin joins those two and Sterling Marlin as the only back to back winners of the race. With his third 500 victory in the past five years, only Petty, Yarborough have more. Hamlin has now won as many Daytona 500's as Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon. Those others, of course, are all Hall of Famers and Hamlin would appear to have many more opportunities in front of him.
As days pass and the story of the 2020 Daytona 500 becomes part of the sport's rich history, it is one that can now be celebrated and remembered positively, certainly more so than seemed possible when the checkered flag fell. Time will show this race as being as dramatic as any of the other 61 versions. It was the second closest 500 finish ever. Years from now, a quick scan of the finishing results will show Ryan Newman as the 9th place finisher. Yet it can never convey how tantalizingly close he was to winning it, nor will it show how dangerously close the entire sport came to having one of its darkest days. It is believed however, that this race will be a marker, showing that for all the positive steps the sport has taken in recapturing its audience recently, those two days were a giant step forward. NASCAR is on the upswing. We can only hope the same will be said when it comes to safety on the speedways.