He was leading the biggest NASCAR race in the world, the Daytona 500, rubbing and racing at 200 mph, when a nudge from behind sent Ryan Newman’s Number 6 stock car into the wall.
The Ford flipped multiple times before being struck on the driver’s side by another racer. Newman went airborne again, the car landing on its roof, ablaze, fluids pouring everywhere.
It took first responders 20 minutes to cut the 42-year-old out of the car. He was rushed to Halifax Medical Center, reportedly with serious injuries.
Two days after that fierce crash, Ryan Newman ambled out of the hospital under his own power, shoeless in blue jeans, holding hands with his two young daughters.
Which brings me to the point of this column – which has nothing to do with NASCAR at all, and is more a question than a point, really.
Accompanying this iconic image of Newman leaving the hospital, displayed everywhere on social media and the news, were thousands of variations of the same reaction to Newman’s miraculous survival.
“God is good.” And: “God is Great! Praise Jesus!” And: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
My question: Why are we so quick to credit God for moments like this? Why not extend credit to the engineers who worked for years to create race cars, safety features and advanced helmets designed to withstand crashes at speeds of more than 200 mph?
Why not fall to our knees and praise the paramedics and firefighters who put out the blazing wreck and pried Newman out through the Ford’s roof?
And what about the doctors and nurses, men and women who have devoted their lives to developing sufficient medical expertise to care for Ryan Newman?
I can hear some of you now, explaining how God blessed not only Newman and his family but all concerned, how He watched over them, guided their hands and feet, hearts and brains. All the good flowing from this terrifying moment – He did that.
This is where my questioning grows dark, and for it, I apologize. I mean no disrespect to those who believe.
Think of my inquiries as genuine curiosity from someone struggling to grasp the nuances of deep faith.
So tell me, what about all the people God didn’t bless?
What about Dale Earnhardt, who 19 years ago also crashed into a wall at Daytona, also on the last lap, also on live television. Earnhardt was rushed to the very same hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
He was the biggest name in NASCAR at the time, a father of four children, just 49, still in his prime, too young to die.
Why didn’t The Intimidator get a miracle?
What about so many others at Halifax Medical Center, which has 678 beds, an around-the-clock ER and two floors devoted to critical care?
In the late 1940s, this same hospital in Daytona was where World War II soldiers, wounded in battle, went to recover – or sometimes not.
Every day, mixed in with the miracles, are sad tales of death, babies born premature who don’t survive, victims of heart attacks and strokes, drug overdoses, slips and falls.
They receive no miracles. And in the wake of their deaths, rarely have I ever witnessed a reaction accusing God of a failure, a shortcoming, oversight or just plain cruelty.
In the end, I have to ask this. I ask it without malice, only with rabid curiosity.
Ryan Newman lived and we all praised God above.
But on this same day all across this nation, innocent victims perished at the hands of accidents and killers, disease and infirmity, and none of us asked aloud, “Where was God then?”