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Ryan Newman wants to return to NASCAR 'as soon as I possibly can'

Newman said he suffered a bruised brain and was knocked unconscious during his horrific crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in February.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR driver Ryan Newman said Wednesday that he suffered a bruised brain and was knocked unconscious during his crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500, but said he plans to return to racing "as soon as I possibly can."

Newman sat down with NBC's TODAY for an exclusive interview, his first since that horrific crash. During the conversation, Newman explained that the rollcage of his No. 6 car was "compromised" and that Corey LaJoie's car actually hit his seat during the collision. 

"It takes time for it to heal," Newman said. "I was knocked out. There was a point where I don't remember a part of the race. Realistically, I feel so lucky. On so many levels, I feel so lucky. You look at the crash and you think that is spectacular in a bad way. You look at the car afterwards, you think about all the things that happened right for me to be sitting here."

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Newman was leading the race coming to the checkered flag when contact with Ryan Blaney sent his No. 6 Ford sliding into the outside wall. His car went airborne and was slammed into by Corey LaJoie on the driver's side before sliding on its roof and coming to a stop.

Newman was released from a Florida hospital less than a week after the crash. He made his first appearance at a race track last weekend in Phoenix, but there's still no timetable for his return to driving. 

"I don't know yet. We're working on it," Newman said. "As soon as I possibly can."

When asked why he wanted to get back into the car, Newman said, "I love it," explaining that it's "kind of who I am."

Ross Chastain has been Newman's substitute driver in three races and will again fill that role this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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