Steve Newmark, president, Roush Fenway Racing, held a Q&A session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this morning to read a statement from Ryan Newman and talk about Monday’s accident at Daytona International Speedway.
STEVE NEWMARK, President, Roush Fenway Racing – “I appreciate all you guys being here today. Ryan apologizes for not being able to be here, but he did prepare a statement:
RYAN NEWMAN STATEMENT:
“I’m sorry that I can’t be at the track in person, but I asked Steve to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for all the support that was shown last week to both me and my family. The outpouring of emotion from not only the NASCAR community, but across the country has been truly humbling.
“I want to personally thank everyone, including the man upstairs, for their support, encouragement and the numerous offers of assistance. We always say that the NASCAR community is one big family and never has that been more evident to me than after seeing this family rally together and provide the comfort and support that has been shown to my family and me over the past few days. The calls and visits from the NASCAR executives and my friends and competitors has been truly uplifting.
“I want to thank everyone involved in my care, especially the staff at Halifax Medical Center, where I am convinced I received the best care available. I’m confident the efforts of each of those trained professionals played a major role in where I’m sitting today. And to the entire NASCAR organization, led by Jim France, thanks for being by my side the entire time. You truly stepped up to support me unconditionally when it mattered most.
“Most importantly, I have to thank the guys back at the Roush Fenway Racing shop that built me a car not only fast enough to lead the final seconds of the Daytona 500, but strong enough to do its job under great distress, allowing me to survive such an accident. I am truly indebted to each of you and it is unlikely I will ever be able to properly express to you how much the diligent effort with which you conduct your craftmanship has affected me and my family. I hope you took pride in the photograph of me walking out of the hospital hand-in-hand with my daughters on Wednesday. Thank you. I can’t wait to get back in your race car.
“I was fortunate to avoid any internal organ damage or broken bones. I did sustain a head injury for which I’m currently being treated. The doctors have been pleased with my progression over the last few days.
“Again, I want to thank each of you, from my partners, teammates and competitors and each and every fan across the country. Thank you everyone for the unparalleled concern and unwavering support. And to the media, who has acted with such respect and class during this time.
“I have spoken with Jack Roush and he has assured me that the number six car will be waiting and ready for my return. I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel and battling for another race win in the Roush Fenway Ford.”
STEVE NEWMARK CONTINUED
“I also spoke to Ryan just before I came on here and in talking to him he wanted to reiterate to me again that his goals for this year haven’t changed. His objective is to win the 2020 Cup championship, so hopefully that gives you a little insight into his mindset.
“What I’d like to do now is give you a little perspective from Roush Fenway, so I’m going to piggyback a little bit on the themes that Ryan touched upon in his statement. We’ll probably have a little repetition, but I think that’s probably appropriate based on the support that we’ve received over the last few days.
“I think everybody understands that the events of Monday and the days that followed it was really kind of a surreal experience for the entire Roush Fenway organization, and probably fit right in to the definition of an emotional rollercoaster. We went from what we thought was seconds away from winning the Daytona 500 with Ryan, locking into the playoffs, and also having our other car – the 17 Fastenal Ford finish fourth in Chris Buescher’s first race with us. It was looking like it was gonna be a storybook race for us and a great start to the season and all of that changed in an instant, and we go from not caring about the race, not caring about the competition, in fact I’m not sure that we knew who had actually won the race until a few hours later because the whole later was on Ryan’s safety and well-being. When you see a teammate and a friend and part of your family in that situation.
“So during that process, obviously, Ryan mentioned the gratitude he had toward the Halifax Medical Center. I also want to recognize another group that was an anchor to us during the entire time and that’s the NASCAR leadership team. When we arrived at the hospital that night, NASCAR with Matt Humphrey was already there coordinating logistics. And then during that entire period, so that evening and the days that followed, Jim France, Lesa France, Mike Helton, Steve Phelps, Steve O’Donnell, Eric Nyquist, and Ben Kennedy were either there at the hospital or providing support in whatever way we needed. I know that really lifted the spirits of Ryan’s family and our entire team to see that, and I think it speaks to the caliber of people that they are when you look at the lengths that they went to support us, and it also gives a lot of faith that we’re in pretty good hands going forward.
“For the Roush Fenway organization, it was a pretty agonizing few days. Obviously, a brutal period that night as we had a lot of our team members down at the end of pit road, just feet from where the accident finished. There was obviously a lot of uncertainty at that point and I can tell you to a person on the corporate side and the competition side there wasn’t a single one at Roush Fenway that actually wanted to go home that night. In fact, if we had acquiesced to their wishes, they would have camped out at the hospital waiting until they could actually see Ryan with their own two eyes.
“Thankfully, they kind of relented and reluctantly went back because we still had a job to do, and it was a pretty Herculean task for that organization this week. What we had was a short week to get to the west coast because of the rain delay, and then we also had the uncertainty of who was gonna drive the 6 car, how do you upfit it? How do you get the right seat in that? So they flew home that night, were back in the shop at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and then we basically worked 24-hour shifts so we could be here. I think the results speak for themselves in that we feel like we’ve got two pretty fast race cars, and it’s a tremendous testament to the effort, the work ethic and the passion that whole group showed. I’m extremely proud to be associated with that organization and that group of individuals.
“I also want to thank our partners for their overwhelming and number of reach outs that we received for assistance. As some of you are aware, Koch Industries was on the car with Ryan in the Daytona 500. That was their first foray into NASCAR, so pretty interesting introduction as they come in and get the emotional highs and lows in a compressed period of about 30 seconds. But when we look at what happened over the next few days with Koch Industries, Castrol, Acronis, Wyndham, Oscar Mayer, Coca-Cola, Fastenal, Fifth Third, SunnyD and Ford – all just relentlessly giving us offers for assistance, trying to help Ryan, trying to help his family. It made us just recognize how blessed we were to have such a good partner group.
“Similarly, we received all sorts of reach outs from other drivers, a lot of the drivers visited Ryan, other team owners, team presidents and just across the industry. I do need to take a minute to give a special thanks to Chip Ganassi and Jim Campbell at Chevy for allowing us to put Ross Chastain in the car. Once we understood where Ryan’s condition was and it wasn’t life threatening, we obviously had to shift to try to at least make sure that we continued to race and have this season move forward. So Tuesday morning I called both Chip and Jim to ask for their permission. I will tell you that they were very short conversations because both of them immediately said, ‘You have our blessing,’ and offered unequivocally and support that they could provide to help us through this situation. We also talked to Kaulig Racing and Ross’ agent to put this together.
“To me, we talk about NASCAR being one big family and that was a pretty big testament to it is that each of them put the personal above the professional and we were in a tough situation and it was nice to see our competitors step up and help us in that situation.
“On the team front, I also do want to address any lingering criticisms of Joe Gibbs Racing. From my perspective, they did absolutely nothing wrong. They had just won the Daytona 500, which should be a celebratory time, and I know that the minute they were informed that Ryan’s situation was severe, he hadn’t gotten out of the car, that they completely stopped and started praying for him. Denny came to the hospital that night. I heard from coach Gibbs. We heard from Dave Alpern and so we really appreciate the respect that they showed him and it’s nothing that I wouldn’t expect from an organization with that integrity and that level of class.
“Lastly, and then we can get to some questions, I really do want to thank the media. I received a number of emails, texts, reach outs from many of you here today that were reaching out, not as news reporters, but as friends and individuals generally concerned about the well-being of a member of the NASCAR community. Although we tried to do our best to get you guys updates, we fully recognize that there were a lot of gaps in those updates and that in this day and age of instant communication, social media, that there was immense pressure on most of you out there to fill those gaps with speculation, conjecture, wild theories, and the reality of it is the regular NASCAR reporters didn’t do that and we really appreciate the respect you showed us and how you approached the whole situation.”
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION:
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PROCESS OF GETTING ROSS IN THE CAR AND TO GET HIS SEAT FITTED? IS HIS SITUATION OPEN ENDED WITH YOU? “The situation unfolded is that when we were at the hospital that evening there was actually no discussion at that point because that wasn’t the focus. You were 100 percent trying to support the family and just all of us were concerned about Ryan’s situation at that point. Once we had learned of his status through his dad from the doctors, there was a group of us – Jack Roush, Kevin Kidd, Tommy Wheeler, Scott Graves, myself and Mark Rushbrook from Ford has a conversation about what was the right direction to go, and the first call that Kevin Kidd and I made was to Ross Chastain the next morning, along with Jim and Chip. At this point, I would say it’s open ended because, I’ll answer another question that I’m sure will come up, is we don’t have a timetable for Ryan’s return. I can tell you what his timetable would like to be, which is soon as possible, but there’s some other hoops that he’s got to jump through before that happens. Right now, we’re just taking it one race at a time. Our arrangement with Ross is if we need him, he should be available.”
WHAT PROCESS DOES THE TEAM AND RYAN HAVE TO GO THROUGH FOR HIM TO GAIN CLEARANCE? “The first thing I would say is that I’m thankful that we’re actually even able to have this dialogue about that question because that was not something any of us were certain about when this happened, so it’s a great conversation to be having. The reality is there are three groups that are going to dictate when he returns because he has expressed unequivocally that this is where he wants to be and he wants to be back in a race car. Those three groups are gonna be Ryan and his family, his doctors, and then NASCAR and their medical team. Our assumption is once all three of those sign off, then we’ll see him back in a race car.”
CAN YOU ADDRESS JACK’S REACTION TO THIS? “I was with Jack. Jack and I were in the 17 pit box and it was actually an interesting way that it played out. When the incident happened, we were watching on the screen and then we started to go down towards the end of pit road where the car was. On our way down there we were told Ryan is out of the car and he’s in an ambulance heading to the hospital, so we actually took a hard left and didn’t go down to where the car was, which was probably fine because we weren’t gonna do anything helpful or contribute anything anyways, but we went straight to the hospital. We actually got to the hospital and had to grab a police officer on a motorcycle when we were trying to get out of the track because we were stuck and he gave us a nice opening and ride to the hospital. We got there. Matt Humphrey was there already coordinating logistics. Mike Helton showed up soon after, but we were actually there before Ryan got there and Jack’s focus the whole time was we need to kind of more crisis mode, we need to make sure we’re supporting the family, we need to make sure everything is arranged at the hospital, does he have all the medical care. That was really the dialogue throughout the night and then, quite frankly, we were on pins and needles as I’m sure many of you were waiting for that first indication that it wasn’t life threatening. The way that it played out is the doctors spoke with Greg Newman, Ryan’s dad, and then Greg immediately conveyed that to us and then probably within a minute after that is when we put out the statement just to make sure that the fans understood that as well.”
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE HAVING SOMEONE DIFFERENT IN THE CAR? CAN RYAN HELP BEING AWAY? “There’s no doubt that there are challenges, but I think the sense of relief and the wave of relief that’s kind of gone over our organization makes you recognize that these challenges pale in comparison to other challenges that we could have faced, so I really do think you’ve seen everyone step up. You had challenges of changing the seat, and there’s no doubt that when you look at Ross’ situation it’s tough situation. He’s running three series this weekend. He’s never been in any of our cars, but we thought he was the right person to do it and had the right demeanor and the right character to be able to handle this. As for Ryan, he’s already been involved. He was on the phone with Scott Graves, his crew chief, calling him because I think he was watching practice. I believe he’s talked to Ross, so he has been very active in trying to be involved in the direction of the team.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE SITUATION WAS DIRE OR WAS IT CLEAR THE INJURIES WERE NOT LIFE THREATENING AT THE TIME YOU GOT TO THE HOSPITAL? “The first indication we got is what we passed along, that he was in serious condition and it wasn’t life threatening. As you can probably appreciate, I can’t get into the medical conditions because if HIPAA and other medical privacy laws, but the other piece of it is Ryan actually wants to be the one in front of you to answer those questions. He and I talked about that and he’s kind of chomping at the bit to get back here and I think he feels that would be most appropriate for him to be behind the mic answering a lot of those questions.”
HAS HE SAID ANYTIHNG ABOUT CHANGES HE WOULD WANT TO THE CAR OR RACING AT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA? “He hasn’t specifically. We haven’t discussed that. He knows that he’s gonna get access. The people of NASCAR have been phenomenal. They’ve given access to our organization, our engineers to go over and look at the car, offered it to Ryan. I think everybody in here knows that Ryan has been an advocate of driver safety for many years. He uses his engineering degree and is very vocal, so I have no doubt that he’ll be in the middle of that. It’s an ongoing effort to continue to improve the safety, but from my perspective it’s a testament to the safety that less than 48 hours he was able to walk away after that accident and the reality is most sports have injury reports every week. The reason we don’t is that it’s pretty rare that we actually have an injury in this sport.”
WHAT WAS YOUR EMOTIONAL REACTION? “It probably affected me the same way it affected a lot of members of our team. It’s a hard dose of perspective. You go from being nervous and anxious about the race and thinking that you’re about to have a fantastic start to the season and vindication of a lot of the effort you had over the offseason to realizing those concerns aren’t really that heavy and that weighty and that really the important part is you just go to thinking that I hope he’s all right and this doesn’t impact him going forward. He has two young, beautiful daughters and thankfully several hours later we kind of got that news and there really was a wave of relief for everybody in our organization. There’s a group at the hospital – Mike Helton and Jim France and Jack – and I think a lot of prayers were said and I think a lot of people felt they were answered when we got that news.”
THOUGHTS ON GETTING A WAIVER UPON RYAN’S RETURN? “We really don’t know. I think we haven’t crossed that bridge. I know what Ryan’s perspective is – he recognizes there’s a precedent. We haven’t talked about this with NASCAR because it hasn’t been high on the priority list, but it’s something that I think in his mind he’s gonna figure out how he can get back here, get that waiver and then go out and win a race. We are gonna continue to pursue that vision until we’re told we can’t.”
HAS RYAN USED HIS SENSE OF HUMOR OR MADE ANY COMMENTS ABOUT THE CRASH? “I’m glad you recognize his sense of humor. As an aside, when Chris Buescher started with us this year he was asked what one of the most difficult things has been for him in the transition and he said it’s trying to figure out at times whether Ryan Newman is being serious or sarcastic. I think we’ve seen that in our conversations in the last few days, so that personality type is not impacted, but we haven’t talked a whole lot about the actual race.”
COULD WE SEE RYAN AT THE TRACK BEFORE HE’S ACTUALLY BACK IN THE CAR? “It’s a good question. It’s not something we’ve discussed, but I wouldn’t see any reason why not. I know his objective is to get back as quickly as he can and get in the car, but I could see the minute Ryan is given the green light to be back at the track he’ll be back out there whether it’s getting himself ready or helping Ross to prepare. I’m certain that will be high on his priority list.”
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU AT ALL RYAN’S APPARENT INVINCIBILITY AND IS IT TRUE HE ASKED FOR DONUTS WHEN HE WOKE UP? “It does not surprise me. He is as tough as they come and it was also refreshing to be in the hospital room listening to his family make fun of him for having no neck and for just being completely thick. And there is truth to the rumor that when he heard there were donuts down in the room where we were all congregated that he asked his dad to confiscate some and bring them back up to his room. I don’t know what happened them, but not a surprising development.”