Denny Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 in five years in a close finish that was marred by a horror crash for driver Ryan Newman that left him hospitalised.
Coming to the line Newman, who was a strong contender at the front of the field in both the first and final stages, was tagged from behind by Ryan Blaney.
The relatively minor hit sent the Roush Fenway Racing driver’s Ford Mustang airborne, where it was struck by Corey LaJoie who had nowhere to go.
Newman’s car crossed the line upside down in ninth, while Blaney held on to run Hamlin close as they crossed the line.
“I think we take for granted some times how safe the cars are but number one we’re praying for Ryan,” Hamlin said in his victory lane interview with Fox.
“I worked really well with Ryan through this whole race and obviously he got turned right there but I’m proud of the whole FedEx team.”
Joe Gibbs, owner of Hamlin’s winning entry later issued an apology for the team’s enthusiastic celebrations while initially unaware of the severity of Newman’s accident.
Blaney was visibly distressed when he spoke after the race.
“We pushed Newman there to the lead, then we got a push from the #11. I made a move off [turn] four, Newman blocked it, I went low and he blocked that, so then I was just committed to pushing him to the win to try and have a Ford win it,” Blaney said.
“I don’t know … we got bumpers hooked up wrong and turned him. I hope he’s alright. It looked pretty bad.
“I was definitely trying to push him to a win. I hope Ryan’s alright.”
In a statement issued by Roush Fenway Racing, via NASCAR, Newman was confirmed to be in a serious but non-life threatening condition at the local Halifax Medical Center where he was taken directly from the track by ambulance.
“Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center. He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening,” read the statement, which was delivered to the media by NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell.
“We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family during this time.
“We appreciate your patience and cooperation and we will provide more information as it becomes available.”