CONCORD, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The 63rd Annual Daytona 500 on Sunday will mark one year since Ryan Newman’s horrific crash coming to the finish line of the 2020 Daytona 500. This year, NASCAR has made changes to the cars to make them safer as a direct result of the crash. The new safety protocols were developed locally at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord.
The NASCAR R&D Center opened in January 2003 and was built in large part to improve safety after the death of Dale Earnhardt. It’s now been 20 years since that tragic day in Daytona and NASCAR officials say safety in the sport continues to be a never-ending battle.
Daytona International Speedway is one of two Super Speedways where NASCAR competes. The speeds at these tracks leave little room for error.
The investigation into Newman’s crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500 started immediately, with accident reconstruction happening at the track.
The next day Newman’s damaged car arrived at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord. Within months, enhanced safety measures were added
“We had added some more bars to the area right behind the driver’s head and we included an intrusion plate on that,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development, John Probst.
Because of the research done in Concord, NASCAR officials also added a check valve on an oil tank. During Newman’s crash, oil poured from the rear of his car when it landed upside down. Probst said some of the safety team members slipped in that oil while trying to remove Newman from his car.
Officials also reduced horsepower on the cars, forcing them to go slower.
Newman remains grateful for NASCAR’s safety record and improvements.
“If you looked at the car and the helmet you would think you are talking to a ghost right now,” said Newman.
Newman’s crash isn’t the first or the last that’s been investigated at the R&D Center.
“Anytime there is a crash of any kind we record the incident,” said Probst.
Right now the R&D Center has more than 2,500 recorded incidents. Many of those incidents are recorded using black boxes and high-speed cameras installed on every car. The data is stored for future use.
“Safety for us is a never-ending journey so we are very critical of all the safety systems and if they worked or not,” said Probst.
NASCAR officials say that the window net and window net bar performed well during Ryan Newman’s crash and because of that, they doubled down on the procedures that must be followed by teams when installing those safety devices.