SpeedVegas sponsored NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Noah Gragson late last year. Photo: Getty Images

Vegas car track: Medical event may have preceded fatal crash

1 Comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) A tourist-oriented auto racing track near Las Vegas suggests in court filings that a Canadian man driving a Lamborghini may have had a medical episode before a fiery crash that killed him and an instructor.

Attorneys for SpeedVegas filed the documents Tuesday ahead of a Thursday hearing on a request to close the track. They said investigations of the Feb. 12 crash were not complete and it would be “absurd” to suggest that the year-old facility is unsafe and that the course layout led to the wreck.

“There is evidence to suggest that the driver suffered a medical condition that may have caused the fatal crash,” attorneys Richard Schonfeld and David Chesnoff wrote.

Chesnoff said Wednesday that the document speaks for itself. It says a friend of the Canadian man, Craig Sherwood, 37, of Thornhill, Ontario, told a course employee that Sherwood “was known to have a medical condition that caused seizures.” The filing did not include a statement from the friend, Andrew Ipekian.

Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said he can’t release information about Sherwood’s medical history.

A woman who answered the telephone at a real estate business where Sherwood worked declined to comment or to provide a contact for his family. Ipekian also works at the agency and did not respond to a message from The Associated Press.

The course’s attorneys said there is no reason for a judge to close the $30 million track and put 85 people out of work. It also alleges that Francisco Durban, a driving instructor who sued last month to force the course to close for a redesign, offered to withdraw his complaint if SpeedVegas officials bought him a house.

Durban’s attorneys, Dominic Gentile and Janiece Marshall, said they were reviewing the documents. They argued in the lawsuit that the 1+-mile road course several miles south of the Las Vegas Strip is dangerous and that Durban should not face dismissal from his job for refusing to sign a document attesting that it is safe.

Durban signed a non-compete agreement when he was hired before the track opened in April 2016. Gentile has said that prohibits Durban from working at another track for a year if he quits.

SpeedVegas said Durban is still employed, so he has no legal standing to sue. Documents said the company was willing to waive the non-compete agreement and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was the proper entity to decide the safety of the course, not a judge.

SpeedVegas closed for 12 days after Sherwood and driving instructor Gil Ben-Kely, 59, died when their orange Lamborghini slammed into a wall at a curve following a half-mile straightaway, authorities said. The coroner determined that Ben-Kely died in the crash, and Sherwood died in the fire.

The SpeedVegas filing says none of the other 30,000 guests who have driven some 100,000 laps on the course have been injured.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
1 Comment

Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.