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Photo of Ryan Newman with daughters reminds NASCAR fans of the dad beneath the helmet

A sweet photo of NASCAR driver Ryan Neman holding his young daughters has prompted an outpouring of prayers after Newman was seriously injured in a crash.
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/ Source: TODAY

Ryan Newman is known as a bold and brash competitor on the NASCAR circuit, but he also is a doting father of two little girls.

Fans were reminded of this when a sweet 2016 photo of Newman with his daughters surfaced on social media in the wake of the auto racer's frightening crash at the Daytona 500. The wreck left Newman hospitalized in serious condition.

"I don’t care if you watch NASCAR or not. But please pray for Ryan Newman, who was involved in a scary crash tonight in the Daytona 500,'' a Twitter user named Rob wrote.

The photo shows Newman holding his daughters, Brooklyn and Ashlyn, ahead of the Coke Zero 400 in 2016 at the same Daytona Beach, Florida, track where Newman's fiery wreck occurred Monday.

Many people responded with prayer emojis and well wishes for Newman.

"I am not a NASCAR fan, but tell me that the man is OK and I'll be happy,'' one person wrote. "Awaiting for good news now..."

"Prayers for him and his family,'' another wrote. "Praying he is okay. May God's strength and peace surround them."

The crash also came at a difficult personal time for the 42-year-old "Rocket Man." Four days earlier, Newman's wife, Krissie, announced the two were separating.

"After 16 years of marriage, Ryan and I have decided to amicably separate,'' she tweeted. "We will continue to jointly raise our girls, while remaining friends and continuing to work together supporting Rescue Ranch.

"Thank you for the years of support and friendship. We ask that our daughters' privacy be respected during this time."

Krissie was watching Monday's race and tweeted "Omg" after seeing the wreck.

Newman was awake and speaking with family and doctors on Tuesday afternoon after the crash left him with injuries that were serious but not life-threatening, according to his team, Roush Fenway Racing.

"Ryan and his family have expressed their appreciation for the concern and heartfelt messages from across the country,'' Roush Fenway Racing said in an update Tuesday. "They are grateful for the unwavering support of the NASCAR community and beyond."

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In Monday's race, Newman had taken the lead on the final lap when driver Ryan Blaney clipped the back of Newman's No. 6 Ford Mustang, sending it into a wild spin and causing it to flip upside down. Driver Corey LaJoie then slammed into Newman's car and sent it airborne.

"I definitely did not think he would survive," NASCAR fan Christine Seip told Sam Brock on TODAY Wednesday.

The wreck also brought up difficult memories for former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, the son of racing legend Richard Petty. Kyle's son, Adam, died in 2000 at a practice session in New Hampshire when his car hit a wall at 130 miles per hour.

"My heart and my soul are right back in the same place it was when Adam passed away,'' Petty said on TODAY, adding that it was like "opening an old wound."

The last fatality in a NASCAR race was in 2001 when legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. crashed into a wall on the final lap in Daytona. His death spurred NASCAR to improve safety standards that may have helped save Newman's life.

Earnhardt's son, retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr., told NBC Sports by phone that he is grateful to hear Newman is awake and communicating with family.

"We can start thinking about his future and his recovery and what that may look like,'' he said. "We try to make contact with those close to Ryan to show our support to make sure everybody's in good spirits as much as they can possibly be in this time."