Ryan Newman‘s path to recovery is almost complete. During Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race broadcast, he announced he will return to racing once the NASCAR Cup Series season restarts, potentially as soon as mid-May.
“I’m so excited and thankful, all at the same time, excited to be healthy and at some point get back in the race car when the world starts turning again,” Newman said in an interview with Fox Sports. “Thankful for all the people and the support that I’ve got: friends, family, fans, you name it, that have prayed for me and given this multitude of miracles that have given me this opportunity to get back in the seat at some point.”
When asked by Fox’s Mike Joy to confirm his return with the season restart, he answered, “That’s the absolute plan for sure. I’m healthy. I’ve been blessed with another layer of the situation giving me more time to heal, and looking forward to be back in the seat for sure.”
On the final lap season-opening Daytona 500 in February, Newman was hospitalised when he was turned and sent airbourne approaching the checkered flag. He suffered a head injury in the wreck, but was released from the hospital a few days later. Newman officially finished the race in ninth.
In his place, Ross Chastain drove the Roush Fenway Racing #6 car for the next three races before the season was halted due to COVID-19. Chastain, who currently races full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, is considered the favourite to replace the ousted Kyle Larson in Chip Ganassi Racing‘s #42.
“I’m happy Ryan is returning to the No. 6 when NASCAR resumes,” Chastain tweeted. “He has a wonderful team around him and it’ll be great to see him back competing. Thanks to Jack (Roush), RFR and all their sponsors for letting me keep his seat warm while he was making his recovery.”
Although the pandemic and paused season have allowed for Newman to recover from his injuries, he was not immediately officially cleared to return to racing.
“We share Ryan’s enthusiasm in his return to the track,” read a NASCAR statement later in the day. “We look forward to Ryan returning to racing as soon as he is medically cleared to race.”
Although the NASCAR season’s specific return date is unknown, speculation points to Darlington Raceway offering to host a round on 17 May. The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, planned for the following week and the earliest non-postponed date, is also a possibility. Last Thursday, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper announced NASCAR would be considered “essential business”, allowing teams to get back to work and the 600 to potentially be run without fans.
UPDATE (27 April): NASCAR has officially cleared Newman to race.