Vegas car track: Medical event may have preceded fatal crash

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

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.