Local driver Matt Tifft praises NASCAR safety, sends prayers to Ryan Newman

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DAYTONA, Fla. (WJW)-- The NASCAR world is praying for driver Ryan Newman's speedy recovery after a fiery crash.

On Tuesday evening, Roush Family Racing announced Newman woke up and was talking with his family and doctors.

"It was the second impact. That's what took my breath away, what scared me, what scared the whole industry," said Matt Tifft, professional racing driver and Northeast Ohio native.

Newman's car bounced off the wall, flipped in the air and dropped back down in front of another racer's car.

"When you've already hit first and you go airborne and you land and you hit driver's side, that's the scariest part. It's the weakest part of the car," Tifft said.

He is keeping his colleague in his thoughts. 

"I hope he can get back to racing soon. And our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family and his kids."

Tifft was part of a big crash in last year's Daytona 500. 

"It happened 20 cars in front of me. And I was still involved in that crash even though you're shifting and slowing down and trying to miss it."

Despite other crashes, he praised NASCAR for its focus on safety. 

"Every time that happens, you know, I'd be ready to jump in the race car the next time because I knew that car was safe enough," he said. "This is the safest vehicle you can really be in and NASCAR has done so much work to make sure our seats are safe, the roll cages are safe."

The racing company is planning to debut a new generation vehicle in 2021. Tifft said one safety feature would be to move the driver's seat further from the left side door. 

"That half an inch or an inch or whatever that ends up being, that could be a big difference in wherever that car ends up hitting the driver."

He also said Newman's crash will be studied.

"These cars have basically like a black box in them like a flight recorder. So you go back and basically see everything that happened in that crash."

There are still areas for improvement like keeping cars from going airborne. That's something that Newman brings up in safety meetings often, Tifft said.

"He's always the one that's been adamant about car safety and keeping the cars on the ground."

But Tifft said the industry has come a long way in the past 20 years. 

"I think it's a good reality check for the sport to make sure we're looking at the right things. I think at the same time, a celebration of the safety advancements of what we've been able to do to still have Ryan Newman with us today."

Tifft was clear that no one is to blame in the crash that involved three other drivers.

"There is absolutely no fault at all here from Ryan Blaney, from Denny Hamlin or Corey LaJoie."

He said there was no ill intent from anyone and he knows the community is all sending support to Newman.

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