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Former NASCAR driver arrested for third time in O.C.

June 4, 2010 |  8:11 pm

For the third time in three weeks, former NASCAR driver James Edward Neal is in trouble with the law in Orange County -- now facing drug charges after previous separate allegations of attempted rape and reckless driving.

"I know it sounds pretty crazy," Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino said of Neal’s chain of arrests.

Neal, 56, was arrested Friday in a San Clemente motel where a bail bondsman allegedly spotted methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and notified sheriff’s deputies, Amormino said.

The bail bondsman had gone to the motel to discuss with Neal the terms of his release from jail earlier in the day on charges of attempting to rape a 55-year-old Lake Forest woman May 31.

The rape arrest, in turn, came just hours after Neal was released from an Orange County jail where he had served two weeks on charges stemming from his racing-like driving episode last month. He had driven his Chevrolet Corvette down Interstate 5 at speeds up to 140 mph through Camp Pendleton and into San Diego County. Authorities gave up the chase, but Neal was arrested after his car broke down.

In addition to the new drug counts, Neal faces charges of attempted rape and false imprisonment in connection with the alleged assault on the Lake Forest woman. Amormino said Neal had met the woman only once before and went to her apartment at 3 a.m. May 31, soon after he finished his jail term on the reckless driving charges.

Neal was being taken to the Orange County jail Friday evening. His latest bail had not been set.

--Larry Gordon

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