NASCAR driver who helped draw attention to case of woman killed in hit-and-run accident sees efforts go for naught

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When NASCAR driver Kevin Conway placed a cold case photo and information on his Nationwide Series car of a young woman who was killed in a 2008 hit-and-run accident, the odds were slim that it would lead to the person who struck and killed Melissa Lech.

Somehow, the longshot of having the photo and information on Conway’s car during a 2011 race at Chicagoland Speedway ultimately worked, as David McCarthy IV eventually confessed to the crime.

According to an ABC News report in February 2012, McCarthy allegedly went to the home of Lech’s sister and confessed, claiming his conscience had been eating at him ever since “the NASCAR thing.”

McCarthy left Lech’s sister’s house without identifying himself, but Lech’s brother-in-law got the license plate off McCarthy’s car and notified police, who arrested McCarthy shortly afterward.

He was charged with causing personal injury and leaving the scene of an accident and held on a $1 million bond.

With McCarthy’s confession again told to arresting officers, it appeared to be a slam-dunk case for conviction. After McCarthy’s arrest and when he was told that his race car helped solve the case, Conway said at the time he was “thrilled” and added “I hope this brings an element of closure so (Lech’s family) can begin the healing process.”

Unfortunately, Lech’s family is once again seeking justice as on Thursday in a Will County (Ill.) courtroom, McCarthy had all charges against him dropped.

The rare reversal came as prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge all agreed McCarthy’s alleged confessions were false because he suffers from a mental disorder that causes delusions, and that evidence did not match his account of the incident.

Sadly, that puts the Lech family back where it started when Melissa was first killed in the hit-and-run incident in Joliet, Ill., just a few miles from Chicagoland Speedway.

Conway, who was Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year in 2010, hasn’t raced in NASCAR since that 2011 season. He won the North American Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series Pro-Am championship in 2013.

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Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.