Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman on TODAY Show: ‘Thankful’ … and ready to return

Ryan Newman said Wednesday morning that he’s “thankful for so many people” as well as the safety enhancements made during his time in NASCAR as he recovers from his last-lap wreck in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Newman’s appearance on NBC’s TODAY show in New York City marked his first sit-down interview since suffering serious injuries Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. The 42-year-old driver briefly answered questions on his way through the garage last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

“It’s still humbling to watch (the wreck) and know that I am sitting here without a headache, which is amazing,” Newman said Wednesday. “It’s just a miracle on so many levels. I’m thankful for so many people for prayers, and for all the things that went into me being safer in that situation. … The angels aligned and held a really good grip.”

“It’s not just me,” Newman added when asked about his personal commitment to safety over the years. “There’s a whole group at NASCAR that’s done a great job, from the tracks to the safety personnel, the drivers inside the cars, the cockpits, the containment seats that we have. There are so many levels of things that happened in the last 20 years that I’ve been part of the sport that helped me be able to sit here today.”

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Newman was starting his 19th full-time season in NASCAR’s top division at the time of his crash. He spent less than two days in the hospital before his release, walking out of Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach with his daughters by his side.

Newman has missed the last three NASCAR Cup Series races. The Roush Fenway Racing driver said Wednesday that he’s been diagnosed with a bruised brain and was unconscious in his car for a period after the wreck. While his timetable to return to the track remains uncertain, Newman reiterated he hopes to return as soon as he is cleared.

“I love it,” Newman said of his desire to race. “It’s been a little bit painful to be out of the race car and to not be doing what I’ve done for so many years. I’ve been racing since I was 4, 4-and-a-half years old. It’s just kind of who I am.”