Archive for Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Beverly Hills 90210’ actor transferred to Indy hospital

August 13, 2002

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— Actor Jason Priestley was taken Monday by helicopter to Indianapolis, a day after he was seriously injured in an auto racing accident at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.

Priestley, 32, a rookie open-wheel driver in the Infiniti Pro Series, crashed going nearly 180 mph during final practice for Sunday's Kentucky 100.

Actor Jason Priestley is removed from the infield hospital to an
awaiting helicopter after crashing his Infinity Pro Series car
during a practice session for the Kentucky 100. The accident
occurred Sunday at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.

Actor Jason Priestley is removed from the infield hospital to an awaiting helicopter after crashing his Infinity Pro Series car during a practice session for the Kentucky 100. The accident occurred Sunday at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.

Priestley continues to be treated for a moderate concussion and a broken back, among other injuries. He can move all his extremities and breathe on his own, authorities said.

He was in serious but stable condition Monday in the University of Kentucky Medical Center's intensive care unit before he was transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, known for its treatment of injured race car drivers.

The crash involved two head-on collisions. Priestley's Indy-style car first struck the outside wall, then slid back across the track, coming to a stop after hitting the inside retaining wall.

Car owner Tom Kelley said having his driver in Indianapolis, home base for Kelly Racing, will make it "easier for us to take care of him and his family. The reconstruction will be done in Indianapolis on the ankle and foot injuries, which are common. The good news is, (the car) absorbs a lot of shock. The bad news is, it mashes your feet but it probably saves your life."

Priestley, a native of British Columbia, became a TV heartthrob starring with Luke Perry, Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth in the Fox network's "Beverly Hills, 90210," which ran from 1990 to 2000. He played Brandon Walsh, the Minnesota boy whose family moved to Beverly Hills and learned to adjust to life there.

In recent years, he began focusing on auto racing and was considered to be a knowledgeable and talented driver.

"He's gotten to know everybody and changed everybody's opinion of him. He's shown he's a good racer. He's been running up front," driver Ed Carpenter said.

On Saturday, he qualified his Dallara-Infiniti similar to an Indy Racing League car but smaller and less powerful for a start next to pole-winner A.J. Foyt IV for Sunday's 100-mile race. The Infiniti Pro Series is the IRL's developmental series.

He crashed coming out of the second turn in the final practice, apparently after driving through a patch of "oil-dry," an absorbent material that had been spread on part of the track about 10 minutes earlier to soak up oil from another car.

"He got sideways, and he corrected and then shot off the track," said former Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, whose son, Arie Jr., competes with Priestley.

"He turned right into the wall, and his first impact was basically head-on," Luyendyk said. "I saw it from the top of the roof. What I'm thinking is that's really the one big hit that he took that might have hurt him."

In April, Priestley crashed a powerboat during a race in Miami, leaving one crew member with cracked ribs. In 1995, he crashed into a ditch during the Michelin SCCA Pro Rally in Olympia, Wash., but recovered to finish the race.

Last year, he completed an alcohol counseling program he was ordered to attend when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor DUI charge stemming from a December 1999 car crash in the Hollywood Hills. Priestley's Porsche was totaled and a friend broke an arm in the accident.

The Kentucky race was the fourth of seven races in the series, but Kelley said he would not enter a car in the final three races. Priestley had finished second, sixth and 13th in previous races.

"I'm more concerned with Jason's recovery and well-being than running three more races at this point," Kelley said.

"I was so pleased with Jason's performance. He finished second in his first race (at Kansas City), and qualified second at Kentucky when the conditions were tough.

"Then this freaky thing happens. It makes us appreciate when things go right."

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