On lap 56, Newman came up on the back of Greg Biffle, who had gone wide off of turn five and clipped the curb of the track. Newman's car hit the back of Biffle's and Newman went head on into the wall on the right side of the track.
His car careened back across the track and was hit by Michael McDowell. After the impact, which sheared a significant portion of the car, McDowell's car slammed into the wall on the left side of the track. McDowell's impact was so significant that a hole was ripped in the wall and his rear axle was stuck in the catch fence.
As the track was littered with debris, NASCAR immediately threw a red flag to clean up from the accident and fix damage that was sustained to both walls. Neither driver was injured.
The walls lining Watkins Glen are steel guardrails instead of SAFER barriers that line a significant portion of walls around NASCAR's tracks. After the accident, Newman criticized Watkins Glen's safety features. (Watkins Glen is owned by International Speedway Corporation.)
"It's really disappointing," Newman said. "We lost John Melvin here in the last couple of weeks and he did a lot of innovations for our sport and it's really sad that they haven't adapted any of them here for this racetrack."
"The barriers – the SAFER barrier, that doesn't exist here. The Armco walls, there are no concrete walls. It's a very antiquated racetrack and the safety isn't at all up NASCAR standards and it's a shame we have to have accidents like that to prove it. Hopefully something will change by the next time we come back."
Melvin served as a key safety consultant for NASCAR. He died on July 17.
During the red flag, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the sanctioning body would review the accident per protocol. Former driver and current ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace estimated after the crash that SAFER barrier would cost approximately $10 million to install at Watkins Glen.
A second red flag was needed at the end of the race when Denny Hamlin's car slammed into the barrels protecting the edge of the pit wall at the entrance to pit road. The barrels full of gravel broke and spilled, necessitating a 20-minute cleanup period before the race, which A.J. Allmendinger won, was able to resume.
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