Sheriff: Distraction may have killed Nevada racer

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By KEN RITTER

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A racer from California may have been distracted for a moment before he crashed and died in a fireball close to the finish line of a high-speed highway road race in rural Nevada, the local sheriff said Tuesday.

Philip Bowser, 71, of San Jose, may have been driving more than 120 mph before his 1997 Porsche 993 missed a sweeping left turn, wobbled on the shoulder of State Route 318, and rolled down an embankment before bursting into flames, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said.

Bowser's 44-year-old daughter, Amy Bowser, was in the passenger seat and escaped serious injury, Lee said. But she couldn't get her unconscious dad out of the wrecked before it burned.

"She kept saying: 'I couldn't get him out by myself,' " said Lee, who was the first emergency responder to the scene of the crash Sunday morning near Hiko, Nevada.

"The vehicle was completely involved," Lee said. "I tried to see in, but the heat was tremendous. I pulled her away from the vehicle. She was distraught."

The Bowsers were among 130 competitors taking part in the Silver State Classic Challenge, a last-of-its-kind race that uses a 90-mile stretch of public highway twice a year to allow racers to test their skills, their nerve and their vehicles.

Bowser's death was the fourth in 27 years for the race held twice a year on the same remote highway in the Nevada high desert, race spokesman Jimi Day said. A driver and navigator died in a crash in 2011, and a driver died in a wreck in 1992.

The road between Lund and Hiko is closed for the race, which allows racers to compete in speed classes up to an unlimited category. The top record speed is more than 217 mph.

"Phil was a friend," Day said. "He's done this before. We're all very sad for his family and friends. But we all recognize this is a possibility that can happen when we strap into the driver seat."

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