Senior staff writer
Greenwood auto dealership owner/NHRA Sportsman competitor Ray Skillman is recovering from injuries suffered last week during a crash in Las Vegas.
Skillman’s 2014 Ford suddenly went out of control at more than 170 mph Oct. 27 after completing his second qualifying run in Sportsman competition.
His car veered left after completing the run, hit the wall, rolled and careened upside down before going upright and into a protective sand pit at the end of the strip. Skillman, a veteran Sportsman competitor, had finished an overall fifth-fastest run of 174.648 mph (7.732 seconds) against a 2010 Cobalt driven by Travis Gusso of South Dakota.
A timing and scoring official reported that Skillman’s car “lands on the wheels and the throttle sticks … then goes into the sand.” Gusso said the parachute at the rear of Skillman’s car did not open and that the throttle was wide open.
Skillman, 75, was assisted from his car and transported to a nearby hospital, where he was released Saturday. Skillman suffered a fractured vertebra, a broken rib, cuts and bruises.
Son Bill Skillman issued a statement thanking fans for their concern over his father’s injuries.
Skillman has raced in the Sportsman class for several years, winning class trophies, since climbing from NASCAR regional, Sunoco series and Hooter’s Pro Cup competition. He was involved in a horrific three-car crash in 1996 at Salem Speedway and another two-car crash, landing upside down, in a NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway but was not injured.
At the track, known as The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sunday, grandson Drew Skillman reached the final round in Pro Stock but lost to veteran Shane Gray, whose team supplies Skillman with their drag racing engines. Ray Skillman Chevrolet sponsored David Rampy, who won his 92nd event in Sportsman competition Sunday.
Skillman owns Ray Skillman Auto Group with several locations on the Southside and throughout central Indiana.
A native of Owensboro, Ky., Skillman’s interest in racing was formed as a young crew member for hometown native Darrell Waltrip, who raced short tracks in Kentucky and Tennessee before going on to NASCAR stardom.