June 02, 2010

Former NASCAR driver arrested in Orange County on suspicion of attempted rape

Former NASCAR driver James Neal was arrested on attempted rape charges Monday within hours of his release from the Orange County Jail after serving a brief sentence on a misdemeanor driving count, authorities said.

Neal, 56, of San Clemente, was back in jail after he was booked on suspicion of attempted rape and false imprisonment, said Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Mike Jansen.

Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the apartment of a Lake Forest woman early Monday after receiving reports of a fight. The woman, who knows Neal, said he had attempted to rape her and would not leave, according to authorities.

Last month, Neal was arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase down the 5 Freeway. Deputies, who had attempted to pull Neal over for not having a front license plate, stopped the pursuit for safety reasons.

But they later arrested him when they found him standing at the side of the freeway next to his sports car with a blown-out engine.

Police pursuits are pretty common in Southern California. But you could call the one that occurred May 19, 2010 an all-pro affair.

According to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, a man lead authorities on a 50-mile chase from San Clemente to La Jolla. The suspect drove a Corvette, clocking speeds of up to 140 mph.

But when they finally stopped the car, they discovered they were dealing with no ordinary driver.

James Neal turned out to be a former NASCAR driver. Neal pleaded guilty on Tuesday to misdemeanor felony evasion while driving recklessly and has been sentenced to a month in jail and probation.

NASCAR officials told KTLA News that Neal was a NASCAR track racer at the old Ascot Park track in Gardena in the early 1980s. He retired for 21 years before returning to racing in 2008.

The chase finally ended when Neal's engine blew up in the La Jolla area and deputies arrested him without incident, authorities said.



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