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NASCAR driver from SWFL to race in place of driver injured at Daytona 500

One of Southwest Florida’s own will cover for a fellow professional race car driver after a crash ended the driver’s lead in one NASCAR’s biggest races.

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman survived a crash that saw his car flip in the air several feet, being hit by another car and ending on its roof with sparks everywhere. That was all during the final lap of the Daytona 500 Monday.

Just hours after the fiery wreck, Newman walked out of the hospital holding his two daughters’ hands.

While Newman is recovering, NASCAR driver Ross Chastain, a Southwest Florida native from Alva, will cover for him this weekend in Las Vegas.

Chastain joined Miller and Moulton on 94WIP Sports Radio Thursday and said it’s times like these that really bring the NASCAR community together.

“We all are competitive, but when something happens like this, and Ryan needed our help, there was no question on my side or anybody’s,” Chastain said on 94WIP.

There’s a lot of new equipment in cars to keep racers safe, including new harness systems and fire-retardant suits. One mechanic we spoke to say those likely saved Newman’s life.

“I thought the guy was dead really,” mechanic Jesse Chappa said.

Newman was able to walk out of the hospital with his two little girls holding his hands. And the world is now wondering how he survived it.

“Since [Dale Earnhardt] that was it from there,” Chappa said. “They built forward from there.”

Chappa compared this crash to Earnhardt’s crash at the Daytona 500 19 years ago.

“If you compare his wreck to Dale’s, it’s nothing,” Chappa said. “Dale hit the wall and snapped his neck because he didn’t have the stuff we have nowadays. This guy rolled for a quarter mile and just kept going.”

Since Earnhardt’s death, drivers now have an upgraded seat belt and harness system, fire-retardant suits and new, crash-absorbent walls have replaced concrete around the perimeter of every track.

“[Newman’s] was worse, but he survived,” Chappa said. “You can tell, if they had this equipment back then, [Earnhardt] probably would have survived too.”

Chastain says he was happy Newman was able to walk out with his girls alive and is ready to hit the track for him.

Chastain will drive in place of Newman at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend while Newman continues to recover at home.

“It’s been great to see all the support,” Chastain said. “That six-car has a lot to fight for. Those guys worked hard.”

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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