On screen and off, Beverly Hills 90210 star Jason Priestley has always come across as a guy who loved fast cars. That need for speed caught up with him (again) on Sunday, when he was seriously injured in a one-car crash during practice for an Infiniti Pro Series race at the Kentucky Speedway.
At 8:50 a.m. Priestley apparently drove through a patch of "oil dry," a drying agent, and his car spun out He hit the wall at 180 miles per hour, fracturing his spine, breaking both feet and injuring his head. On Monday he was hospitalized in serious condition, but he was conscious, breathing on his own and was not paralyzed.
What was Priestley doing on the same track with men named Luyendyk and Foyt? In fact, he was no dilettante. The actor began racing in 1992 and finished third on the 1995 SCCA Pro Rally Circuit before moving to the more competitive IMSA sports car series. True, Priestley, 32, did lack experience in the open-wheel Indy-type car that he crashed in, but that's not uncommon in the Infiniti Pro, an IRL developmental series. "His day job is different than my day job," says Ronnie Johncox, who is fifth in the series standings and co-owns a metal stamping company in Michigan. "But we both choose to race cars along with that." Priestley was sixth in the standings.
In 1999 Priestley made headlines after totaling his Porsche, then pleading no contest to DUI. In April he crashed a powerboat while racing in Miami. But he was a model of safety on the track and, when he crashed, was wearing a nonmandatory head-and-neck restraint. Says Johncox, "He's a clean racer. I'd race wheel-to-wheel with him anywhere."