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Daytona 500 crash brings back difficult memories for Vipers’ Jerry Glanville

Defensive coordinator knows the dangers of auto racing. Between football coaching stints, he was a race car driver.

PLANT CITY — Watching Ryan Newman’s horrific crash on the final lap of Monday’s Daytona 500 brought back some painful memories for Tampa Bay Vipers defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville.

Glanville, a football coach for parts of five decades, also spent time in between stops as a race car driver, competing on the NASCAR, ARCA and SuperTruck circuits.

Seeing Newman’s crash, and how EMTs covered his car as they removed him from it, made him think the worst. He fought back tears through his sunglasses Tuesday as he described his emotions.

Related: Ryan Newman’s crash was a reminder of racing’s danger. Why drivers keep racing, anyway.

“I was so sad, because my brother and I, we prayed for Ryan,” Glanville said. “We know him, of course, and unfortunately I’ve been in a couple of crashes like that and what scared both of us, when NASCAR covers the car, that’s not a good sign. The last car they covered was Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s. When they told me they covered the car, my sister-in-law just about broke down and cried really.”

Glanville credits Earnhardt Sr., who died from injuries sustained in a 2001 crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500, with teaching him how to drive race cars.

“It’s scary,” Glanville said. “I got carried away in a helicopter a couple of times and it takes great courage to keep coming back. I hit the wall in Arizona and woke up six days later. You know? That’s the sport.”

Tuesday afternoon, Newman reportedly was awake and talking to family.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.