Late in Stage 1 of Sunday’s Geico 500, NASCAR driver Joey Logano’s No. 22 Ford Mustang flew high into the air after contact from Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. His stock car collided with another vehicle before coming to a rest on the apron. Logano avoided injuries during the high-flying wreck, but he responded by making strong comments about safety issues.
“It’s a product of this racing,” Logano told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little. “On one hand, I’m so proud to drive a Cup car that’s safe, that I can go through a wreck like that. But on the other hand, when are we gonna stop? This is dangerous doing what I’m doing. I’ve got a rollbar on my head. I’m one hit away from a Ryan Newman situation.
“I just don’t feel like it’s acceptable,” Logano continued. “A lot of it is due to the big spoiler, the big runs, pushing, and all that. It’s no one’s fault. … It’s a product of this racing, but we have to fix it. Someone already got hurt, and we’re still doing it.”
A massive wreck sent Ryan Newman to the hospital in 2020
The “Ryan Newman situation” Logano referenced occurred during the rain-delayed Daytona 500 that kicked off the 2020 season. Newman was in prime position to win the Crown Jewel race, but Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Ford Mustang hit him from behind and sent the No. 6 Ford Mustang spinning.
Newman’s Mustang slammed into the outside wall and flipped into the air. Corey Lajoie had no time to react as his car collided with the spinning Mustang, launching it even further. Newman’s No. 6 slid down the track on its roof before ultimately coming to a rest.
The medical response team successfully removed Newman from the stock car and transported him to Halifax Medical Center. While the crash sparked major concerns among racing fans, Newman ultimately left the hospital after fewer than two days. He only suffered a bruised brain in the wreck.
Newman remained away from NASCAR during the COVID-19 delay, but he returned to the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang alongside his fellow drivers on May 17 after only missing three races. He completed the remainder of the 2020 season, posting a best finish of sixth at Talladega Superspeedway.
NASCAR uses different rules packages for different races
When the Cup Series heads to different tracks on the schedule, the teams incorporate different packages to fit with NASCAR rules. The short tracks rely on 750-horsepower setups and low downforce while the speedways under two miles in length use high downforce aerodynamics and 550-horsepower setups.
NASCAR made changes to the superspeedway packages in 2020 after Newman’s crash in the Daytona 500. The power dropped from 550 horsepower to roughly 500. NASCAR stated during a teleconference at the time that the goal was to slow the cars down and add one or two seconds to lap times.
“I can’t say that 200 [mph] is a magic number by any means,” said John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president of innovation and racing development. “We have had races where we exceed that. Certainly, it seems like in practice in particular at Talladega when they’re able to form a single line, not have to worry about protecting positions, speeds can sometimes be higher than what we see in the race. But certainly, if we get up in that 205, 206, 207 kind of range, that’s generally where you start seeing us looking at ways to slow the cars down.”
Probst explained that NASCAR wanted to reduce the number of wrecks after watching Newman’s No. 6 Ford Mustang flip multiple times. Following Sunday’s wreck, Logano expressed the opinion that the decision-makers should reexamine the superspeedway rules package.