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NASCAR driver evades police pursuit, briefly

May 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
We've seen plenty of high-speed pursuits, but few drivers get away. This week one did, though only for a little while. He happens to be a former NASCAR driver.Video from an Orange County Sheriff's Department patrol car dash camera shows the scene at 3 a.m. Monday: The pavement is wet, and a silver Corvette looks like it's about to slow down as if to stop, then it suddenly takes off.

"He then jumped on southbound 5 Freeway, hitting speeds of approximately 140 miles per hour," said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Dept.

Orange County Sheriff's deputies tried to stop the car because it did not have a license plate. Unknown to the deputies in pursuit, the driver was former NASCAR racer Jimmy Neal.

Neal, 56, was a track racer at the old Ascot Park track in Gardena in the early 1980s, according to NASCAR officials. Neal's Web site talks of his string of 11 victories. A friend of Neal's says he battled alcoholism. He retired for 21 years and made a racing comeback in 2008.

Last year Neal took time off, faced with a health problem and the death of both his parents. Friends say he was back behind the wheel of his 2003 Corvette, hoping to race. That same Corvette outran authorities, 50 miles later in La Jolla.

"The suspect was driving so fast he blew his engine in the Chevy Corvette and had to pull over," said Amormino.

According to court documents, it shows that Neal was charged with driving under the influence one week ago. He was scheduled to be arraigned on that charge Tuesday.

In court Neal entered guilty pleas to DUI and evading police. The judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail. He must also enter a drug treatment program right after he's released from custody.


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