The crowd at the Daytona Speedway International were visibly shaken as emergency crews rushed to the wreckage.
A NASCAR driver is in a serious condition after his car flipped and burst into flames in a 190mph crash.
Ryan Newman was in the lead at the Daytona 500 in Florida on Monday night when he was tapped from behind by second-placed Ryan Blaney.
Fans watched in horror as his Ford hurtled towards the edge of the track at the marquee event.
Upon hitting the wall, Newman’s car was flung on to its front and was then hit on the driver’s side by Corey LaJoie’s car coming up from the rear.
The vehicle then skidded down the track on its roof.
The crowd at the Daytona Speedway International were visibly shaken as emergency crews rushed to the wreckage, with flames bursting from Newman’s vehicle by the time it came to a halt.
Newman, 42, was removed from the wreck and black tarp tents were erected around the scene while he was placed in an ambulance.
It brought back devastating memories of a fatal crash at the 2001 edition of the annual racing event, when seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt Sr was killed.
Newman was taken to the same hospital as Earnhardt – but incredibly his injuries are not life-threatening.
While he is in a serious condition, officials have said he should recover.
Reading a statement on behalf of Newman’s family, NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell said: “Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center.
“He’s in a serious condition but doctors have indicated his injuries are non-life-threatening.
“We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family at this time.
“We appreciate your patience and cooperation and will provide more information as it becomes available.”
Many of Newman’s fellow drivers have wished him a speedy recovery, including LaJoie.
He said: “Dang I hope Newman is OK. That is worst case scenario and I had nowhere to go but smoke.”
Fellow NASCAR star Brad Keselowski simply tweeted: “Please please please!”
Earnhardt’s son Dale Earnhardt Jr, who won the Daytona 500 twice during his own career before his retirement in 2017, also tweeted: “Big prayers for Newman.”
Newman has been a vocal critic of safety regulations at NASCAR events, which had been significantly beefed up following the death of Earnhardt almost two decades ago.
Newman was fined in 2010 for saying fans shouldn’t attend races at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, where he escaped from a nasty crash the year before.
He also had an accident at Daytona in 2003, when his car went airborne and flipped several times.
The race on Monday night ended up being won by Denny Hamlin, who beat Blaney by 0.014 seconds – the second smallest margin of victory ever recorded at what is known as “The Great American Race”.
US President Donald Trump had officially marked the start of the event on Sunday, giving the famous command for drivers to “start your engines”, but the race was delayed until Monday due to heavy rain.