A terrifying crash has marred the finish of this year's Daytona 500 Nascar race.

Running at the front of the field on the final lap, Ryan Newman's car appeared to be nudged from behind from rival Ryan Blaney

Newman's car then went in to a slow spin before crashing into the outside wall and somersaulting into the air. Just as his car returned to the race track, another car approached from behind and slammed into it's side, sending it once again into the air in a corkscrew before it landed upside down in flames just before the finish line. The car came to rest on its roof.

Ryan Newman's car is forced upside down, in flames, after crashing during the Daytona 500. Photo / Twitter
Ryan Newman's car is forced upside down, in flames, after crashing during the Daytona 500. Photo / Twitter

It took several minutes for his car to be rolled back onto its wheels. The 2008 Daytona 500 winner was placed in a waiting ambulance and taken directly to a local hospital - the damage to his Mustang was extensive. It appeared the entire roll cage designed to protect his head had caved.

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Several hours after the incident, NASCAR held a brief press conference to read a statement from Newman's team saying the driver was in a serious condition in hospital with no life-threatening injuries.

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The crash made for a sombre victory lane as, in third place at the time of the crash, Danny Hamlin went on to win in a photo finish ahead of Blaney. Hamlin became the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1994 and 1995 to win back-to-back Daytona 500s.

However, it wasn't until Fox Sports told him they would not interview him on the front-stretch, after his celebratory burnouts, that Hamlin learned Newman's incident was bad.

"It's a weird balance of excitement and happiness for yourself, but someone's health and their family is bigger than any win in any sport," he said. "We are just hoping for the best."

"The finish, the history, that's all great. One day it will all sink in. But right now all I'm thinking about is Ryan Newman," Hamlin told ESPN.

"I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are and number one, we are praying for Ryan."

Ryan Newman's car is launched into the air. Photo / AP
Ryan Newman's car is launched into the air. Photo / AP

Unaware of the extent of damage done to Newman's car in the crash, Hamlin's team had celebrated their victory with exuberance, only to then apologise once news of the severity of the crash had been relayed to them.

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"Some people may have saw us and said 'well these guys are celebrating' when there's a serious issue going on... I apologise to everybody but we really didn't know. We got in the winner's circle and that's when people told us.

"We know what can happen ... we just don't dream that it will happen."

Runner-up Blaney said the way the final lap shook out, with Newman surging ahead of Hamlin, he locked in behind Newman in a move of brand alliance for Ford.

"We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 ... I was committed to just pushing him to the win and having a Ford win it and got the bumpers hooked up wrong. It looked bad," he said.

Newman has been competing in Nascar for over 19 years.

Corey LaJoie's car (32) makes contact with Ryan Newman's car. Photo / AP
Corey LaJoie's car (32) makes contact with Ryan Newman's car. Photo / AP

Motorsport fans and fellow drivers were quick to voice their worry and thoughts for Newman, his team and his family on social media.

Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was one of the first to take to Twitter to express his concern for Newman.

"Just about to take off on a plane, but watched the end of the race on my phone. Just hoping for good news on Ryan Newman," Newgarden posted.

A rattled Corey LaJoie, the driver who hit Newman's car as it was flipping, posted his thoughts on Twitter.

"Dang I hope Newman is ok," he said. "That is worst case scenerio and I had nowhere to go but (into) smoke."

The final-lap crash was one of several in the race, with a fiery earlier incident taking out 18 cars from the competiton, though no drivers were injured.

- with AP