The dragster that hit the wall belonged to Chris Newman.
But the impact hit his father, Wayne Newman, just as hard.
If not harder.
The Lancaster father-and-son racing tandem has been one of the most successful in Valley sportsman drag racing annals, as Wayne’s semifinal showing at the NHRA National Event in Arizona two weeks ago confirmed.
It was an entirely different story last weekend at Tucson Dragway in an NHRA Lucas Oil Racing Series Division 7 regional event.
Papa Newman lost in the first round.
Chris, 42, one of several drivers upset with the condition of the racing surface at Tucson Dragway, slammed the wall at 200 MPH, wrecking his dragster.
“You’re pretty sore when you hit the wall at 200 MPH,” said Wayne, 66, the former 30-year partner in the popular Wayne And Dave’s Automotive shop in Lancaster. “Chris was able to go back to work (as an engineer at Edwards Air Force Base) today (Wednesday).
“To tell you the truth, when Chris hit the wall, I think I felt it as hard as he did.”
For good reason.
In November, 2016, it was Wayne Newman who hit the wall on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 200 MPH.
The crash left Newman with multiple fractures.
He spent four days in a hospital in Las Vegas, then was airlifted to Woodland Hills for another five days of hospitalization closer to home.
So when Papa Newman found a new car, painted it in the familiar blue-and-gold livery of Wayne and Dave’s automotive and returned immediately to competitiveness in the NHRA Division 7, it was a remarkable profile in courage.
“You never think about the risk, or how fast you’re moving,” Wayne Newman said. “You just want to go faster than the guy next to you.
“But when something does go wrong, the safety equipment in drag racing is really outstanding today. You have to see your car get crumbled up. But the safety equipment keeps the driver from doing the same thing.”
Newman, who grew up in eastern Tennessee, first attended a drag race at one of NASCAR’s hallowed grounds in Rockingham, N.C. as a boy.
The Air Force brought him west to the Valley in 1973. By 1979, the top fuel in his heart was as potent as any at the tail end of a dragster.
Even more precious to him was the success of his business, which he sold in 2018 when he formally retired.
“I miss my customers,” said Newman, who had plenty after establishing a sterling reputation for automotive repair and maintenance. “They really were like family to me. The car is so important, it’s kind of like a family member.
“To know that so many people in the Valley trusted us with their cars was a tremendous compliment.”
Trust was in short supply last weekend in Tucson.
The crash was it for Chris, who announced it was his last race. Perhaps out of sympathetic pain, Wayne may be ready to park it once and for all, too.
“More than likely,” he said.
If so they walk away with decades of memories.
And an even stronger father-son bond that no wall could ever dent.