NASCAR briefs media on Ryan Newman rescue efforts

Steve O'Donnell
Steve O'Donnell
Ralph Garcia/AR1.com

NASCAR met with the media here in Las Vegas Saturday to brief them on the timeline the NASCAR safety team achieved in saving Ryan Newman after his violent crash at the end of the Daytona 500.

“You’ve heard us say this many times, that safety is our primary responsibility," said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

“Everything that goes on at the R&D Center on a daily basis is put in place for a reason. This is our job. This is what we do, and you’ve got the 40 drivers in the garage area who expect us to do this every day."

NASCAR said the first fire responder arrived 19 seconds after Newman's car stopped. A trauma doctor was at the car 33 seconds later and a paramedic entered 2 seconds after that.

“The tool truck arrived at the vehicle 19 seconds after it came to rest," said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “The fireman that you saw with the extinguisher was in that vehicle. One of the three trauma doctors assigned to the safety team for the race arrived at the car at the 33â€'second mark, and a paramedic entered the vehicle at the 35â€'second mark.

“For the next three and a half minutes, two doctors and paramedics attended to Ryan. At the 4:05 mark, the decision was then made to roll the car over while continuing to help aid the driver. At the 6:56 mark, the car was upright. The extrication team then began cutting the car, and a doctor continued to provide treatment.

“The roof was removed at the 11:10 mark, and the extrication was completed at 15:40, and the driver was then moved to the ambulance for transport. During this entire time, doctors and paramedics were attending to Ryan, except at the moment of the car rollover."

"During this entire time, doctors and paramedics were attending to Ryan, except for during the car rollover," O’Donnell said. “The first responders performed their jobs as they were trained. The training systems all worked as were designed.

“We are never satisfied with what took place and we will learn as much as possible and implement those changes, if there are any, as soon as possible."

Newman, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner, has been involved in several rolls at superspeedways. He has been outspoken about safety and has been fined by NASCAR for criticism it deemed excessive.

Newman also advocated for more support in the cockpit for protection during rollovers. A device now referred to as the “Newman bar" is standard.

Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR’s senior director of safety engineering
Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR’s senior director of safety engineering

“So when we look at the cars and look back at what we’ve been able to do with the cars as an industry, we’ve been able to make improvements," said Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR’s senior director of safety engineering. “The one you’ve referenced in 2013 with the additional roll bars and the roof and the windshield area… we were also able to do things with the laminate windshield in 2013 and improved window net mounting in 2013.

“All of those things really contribute and work together as an assembly to improve the overall outcomes to what we saw in Daytona."

“I think, just to add to that, John and I were talking earlier about the fact that Ryan Newman was involved in this accident, with his engineering background, has been someone who we have turned to in many times talking about safety enhancements," rejoined O’Donnell.

“One of the reasons you won’t hear as many details today is we still haven’t had the chance to go through this with Ryan and his team, with the other drivers in the garage, but Ryan’s feedback as we go through this will be key, and I think that’ll be a key component as it’s always been throughout the process when he’s been racing."

"Ryan’s feedback in this will be key," O'Donnell said. "I think that’ll be a key component as it’s always been throughout the process when he’s been racing."

O'Donnell also said changes won’t be made to overtime rules as a result of the accident, but work continues dissecting Newman's crash and ongoing safety efforts.

“Our job now is to have continued dialog with the drivers, see what happens in terms of this race package," O'Donnell said. "Were there any changes from Talladega to Daytona in terms of how they raced? How that may have contributed or not to this incident and if we can make some changes we will."

NASCAR also must balance the fan appreciation of the dangers of Daytona and Talladega with the safety of the show.

“Our job is to get the races in, make them exciting for the fans and not have those kinds of incidents," O'Donnell said. "So, if we can improve on that, we’ll do that."

Transcript

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. We have a special panel here today to discuss some of the accident findings from Monday's Daytona 500. We have Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president, chief racing development officer; he oversees all our competition efforts; John Bobo, NASCAR vice president, racing operation; John oversees our medical policies and procedures among other racing operations functions for NASCAR; and Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR senior director of safety engineering, and he oversees all safety functions at NASCAR's R&D Center.

Steve O'Donnell, why don't you kick it off, talk about some of the things that went down Monday night and the investigation and the response time.

STEVE O'DONNELL: Thanks, Mike. First off, I want to start off by saying how thankful we all are to see Ryan Newman walk out of the hospital in Daytona Beach. We continue to work with not only Ryan but his family and his race team as he continues his recovery, and we'll certainly be with him every step of the way. You've heard us say this many times, that safety is our primary responsibility and priority, and you're going to hear more of that today, as well.

So a couple guidelines for what we're going to share with you today. I know a lot of the folks in this room want to hear as many details as possible, but today we're only going to outline the procedures and processes we have in place that take place in training, what we can recap in terms of a timeline of what took place at the scene, and then the investigation process, what the details will be as we roll through this and get back to you with more.

There's several areas we're not going to touch on today. As our review continues and also there are HIPAA laws that are in effect, as well, so we cannot and we will not talk about anything that details medical response that may disclose Ryan's personal and protected medical information.

To start off, I want to say thank you to a few folks, and that's the AMR safety team, the folks that worked together with them at Advent Health Halifax Hospital, the Daytona Beach Police Department, and certainly the folks at Daytona International Speedway all working together in this incident.

What we want to provide today is a brief overview of the last-lap accident. We want to look at both the medical capabilities that were involved and also the safety systems that were involved. Dr. John Patalak is going to lead this for us. He'll explain a little bit more about the process and then give a complete review once we have all our findings in place.

I want to give you a brief chronological report of what took place and the key actions that took place. The tool truck arrived at the vehicle 19 seconds after it came to rest. The fireman that you saw with the extinguisher was in that vehicle. One of the three trauma doctors assigned to the safety team for the race arrived at the car at the 33-second mark, and a paramedic entered the vehicle at the 35-second mark.

For the next three and a half minutes, two doctors and paramedics attended to Ryan. At the 4:05 mark the decision was then made to roll the car over while continuing to help aid the driver.

At the 6:56 mark, the car was upright. The extrication team then began cutting the car and a doctor continued to provide treatment.

The roof was removed at the 11:10 mark, and the extrication was completed at 15:40, and the driver was then moved to the ambulance for transport.

During this entire time, doctors and paramedics were attending to Ryan except at the moment of the car rollover.

Working in unison and performing their respective jobs, the first responders performed their jobs as they were trained. The training systems, the safety systems all worked as were designed, but again, never satisfied with what took place, and we'll learn as much as possible and implement those changes if there are any as soon as we can.

So I want to hand it over to John Bobo, who will walk you through the training that goes into each intervention from both logistics and medical standpoint, and then Dr. Patalak will speak, as well.

JOHN BOBO: Thanks, Steve. You know, I want to talk about two important parts of this, which is our first response training and our medical procedures and policies. Training is a full season unto itself at NASCAR. Before the green flag drops, there's so much that we do each and every week. We are rehearsing and training weekly to create that operational muscle memory for times of crisis.

About two months out before each event, we work with our local track partners to conduct trainings that include online, classroom and hands-on training. The courses cover anything from cleanup, restoration, extraction and rollover. Every single person working at the track in the safety capacity has to go through that training.

On the medical side, we have the NASCAR AMR safety team. It's a team of emergency paramedics, physicians and neurologists who provide a level of service that's just phenomenal. To date, over the last three years, they've worked 115 Cup races and have come to know our competitors well.

Another key component to our safety is our local medical and emergency professionals and our relationship with them. We work with our track partners and fully embrace local and medical emergency care. We have learned through the years that these local professionals are a gateway into the highest levels of care and expertise, and that's why we take the time before each race to tour trauma centers to get to know folks at the local level as we can do that.

So you put all this together, and what you've got is a collaboration of professionals working in concert through the years based on mutual respect and dedication to a singular mission.

Now, John Patalak will talk about some of the safety enhancements through the investigation.

JOHN PATALAK: Thanks, John. Good morning. Regarding NASCAR crash investigation, that begins for us at the racetrack. Any time there's an incident on the track, whether the vehicle is towed or driven back into the garage area, the NASCAR safety officials go to that car and begin the investigation. That typically starts with pictures being taken around the exterior of the vehicle and then also moving to the interior, looking at the driver restraint system, removing the IDR, which is our Incident Data Recorder, and the high-speed camera in the Cup Series. All of that information comes back and begins to populate an incident report, which is housed in our NASCAR crash database.

That process was followed for the 6 and 32 cars at Daytona as well as all the other cars involved in incidents that week. In the case of the 6 and 32 cars, those vehicles were then transported back to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, for further investigation.

On Tuesday, that started with the laying out of the vehicles in a secure space where we have all of the components and associated elements that came from the cars and on the racetrack, as well as the driver safety equipment. We began to document all of those parts and pieces, all of that equipment, really starting from the outside of the vehicles, slowly working our way in, and assessing each of the individual safety systems and how they performed individually as well as together as a complete assembly, and then ultimately how the two cars interacted together during the crash.

We have many sources of data that we're pulling from in the investigation. As I mentioned, those include the IDR, the high-speed camera. We're also looking at the ECU data, available telemetry data from the vehicles and broadcast and non-broadcast video sources. We're currently working on synchronizing all of those datasets together in time, so with the video that's looking at each video on a frame-by-frame basis, lining those up together in time to create a full picture of what happened as the crash unfolded.

We're working together with Roush Fenway Racing as well as outside experts as we continue to investigate and look forward to being able to provide more information at some time soon.

Q: I'm curious about the paramedic who went into the car. Is that a standard practice, to have somebody go inside the car in a crash like that?

STEVE O'DONNELL: Yeah, we will get someone inside the car as quickly as we can, and I think it's also important to note the surroundings of that car. There were a lot of things going on, and would applaud the paramedic for doing their job and getting in right away, and that's always our first move, first person on the scene who then works with the doctors.

Q: There were obviously many conversations with the drivers yesterday, and they were talking about the safety of the cars which they feel really good about, but always NASCAR looking forward, some of the taller drivers, the Joey Loganos, the Austin Cindrics, moving forward, is that kind of an area that you're looking at?

JOHN PATALAK: Well, I think as we look at all those in the next-gen vehicle, we're certainly always looking for ways to make improvements, and we have a good opportunity to do that with the next gen, and we'll look at our current car, as well, as this investigation unfolds and look at any opportunities for improvement.

Q: Just wondering, John, as far as the reinforcement bar, there's been a lot of talk about the Newman bar this week, and just wondering, the reinforcement of the window, because the drivers really fear getting hit after — it's not so much going over but it's the secondary things that can happen. How instrumental has the reinforcement of the cockpit over the last two decades been in ensuring that the drivers do eventually walk away?

JOHN PATALAK: So when we look at the cars and look back at what we've been able to do with the cars as an industry, we've been able to make improvements. The one you've referenced in 2013 with the additional roll bars and the roof and the windshield area. We were also able to do things with the laminate windshield in 2013 and improved window net mounting in 2013. All of those things really contribute and work together as an assembly to improve the overall outcomes to what we saw in Daytona.

And so I think each one contributes in its own way for both those vehicles involved.

STEVE O'DONNELL: I think just to add to that, John and I were talking earlier about the fact that Ryan Newman was involved in this accident, with his engineering background, has been someone who we have turned to in many times talking about safety enhancements. One of the reasons you won't hear as many details today is we still haven't had the chance to go through this with Ryan and his team, with the other drivers in the garage, but Ryan's feedback as we go through this will be key, and I think that'll be a key component as it's always been throughout the process when he's been racing.

Q: Do you anticipate any changes to the rules package? I know you feel like your lift-off speeds are where you would want them, but any change to the rules package in terms of preventing cars getting airborne as they have at the plate races or at the superspeedways?

STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's fair to say that it's still early in terms of as we look through this, but we're going to look at everything and anything in terms of the speeds. The lift-off, you've heard me say many times before, we never want a car to get airborne so we'll look at how that occurred around the speeds. We'll look at the racing procedures we have in place, as well. All of those will be on the table as we look to head into Talladega, and if we need to make adjustments around the aero balance and speeds as it relates to safety, we'll do that.

Q: And can you say if Newman has been cleared to race, and if not just what is the procedure for him to get cleared?

JOHN BOBO: Yeah, he would have to be cleared by his medical team for all racing activities, and I know they'll work — have time to work through that process, and we'll be in communications with them.

Q: Steve, you mentioned the racing procedures could possibly change. Is that in terms of like — could it extend to how overtime is done or when the caution comes down the last lap, things like that, or are you referring to something different?

STEVE O'DONNELL: No, I think more just talking to the drivers, you hear a lot, and I'm surprised we haven't heard a lot about blocking or different things that occurred during the race. I'd say the overtime rules we're not going to change. The caution procedures, I would stand by how that worked for the Daytona 500.

Just in talking to the drivers, this incident only happened a few days ago, so our job now is to have continued dialogue with the drivers, see what happened in terms of this race package, were there any changes from Talladega to Daytona in terms of how they race, how that may have contributed or not to this incident, and if we can make some changes, we will.

Q: Can you shed some light on how NASCAR has — I mean, obviously what everybody sees on social media, he's walking out of the hospital after, and there was a big celebration on Twitter. Was there a celebration, as well, at the R&D Center? Were people high-fiving or was there any sense of satisfaction that things ultimately sort of held up?

STEVE O'DONNELL: I have never seen the guy to my right, Dr. John Patalak, celebrate. I would say that he would just continue to do his job and know that there's always something we're going to learn. A lot of the things you heard John talk about earlier were already in the works in 2013 that they had put in place, and so are we certainly happy that he walked out with his daughters? 100 percent. But our job is to get those races in, make them exciting for the fans and not have those incidents. So if we can improve on that, we'll do that.

Q: A lot of people in this room, we follow the sport week to week, we live in the garage. What would you say to people outside the sport? It seemed like a lot of the national coverage, ABC News, et cetera, et cetera, over the years has understood your quest toward safety and all the work that you've done. What would you say to people that just saw that crash and don't know anything about all the stuff that we're talking about today?

STEVE O'DONNELL: I'd say if someone had a chance to come up to the R&D Center and just see everything that goes into not what happened in that incident but all the training that John talked about that goes into this, everything that goes on at the R&D Center on a day-to-day basis is put in place for a reason, and it's not — as Jeff said, I'm not saying to high-five each other, it's more about this is our job and this is what you do and you've got the 40 drivers in the garage area who expect us to do that each and every day, so we'll continue to do that. I'm certainly proud of the folks that we have on our team, but I think you'd hear them all say that we can continue to improve, and we'll do that.

Q: Is there anything in the development of the next-gen car that you feel will help in these situations?

JOHN PATALAK: So development is well underway. We've done several safety tests in the roof as well as door bars and things like that, both in computer simulation and physical testing, and we're preparing to do more. So the next gen — every time we have an opportunity to have a clean sheet of paper it's an opportunity from a safety standpoint to implement improvements, and we're already seeing those happen.

Q: To kind of follow up on that, John, there's been some discussion about the movement of the seat and where you guys moved it, and Joey said it's not a problem for him because he can still see over the dashboard, but for some of the shorter drivers, what are we doing as far as giving them a better view out of the windshield of the Gen-7?

JOHN PATALAK: So I think the eye line is something that they're working with — we're working with all the teams to make sure all the drivers can have adequate sight lines, and I think they've been able to accommodate all those guys who have been fit in that car so far.

From a safety standpoint, what we're looking at is making sure we have clearance to the roll cage, and those are all good numbers in the next gen for now.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody, and thank you, general, for your time today.

STEVE O'DONNELL: I just want to say to the media, in the day and age of social media, and I tweeted this out, but I sincerely respect all of you for how this incident was handled and appreciate you. I know it took a while, but there are reasons for that, and I appreciate you all kind of waiting on results to where we could get back to you, so thank you for that.

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