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As Michael Schumacher turns 50, only Las Vegas race recalled

Updated January 3, 2019 - 2:29 pm

As he turned 50 Thursday, his family released an online app celebrating Michael Schumacher’s career as one of the greatest auto racing drivers the world has known.

It was a muted celebration.

After avoiding serious injury during a record-setting career that saw him win an unprecedented seven Formula One world driving championships and 91 races, Schumacher suffered a devastating head injury while skiing in the French Alps a year after his last start.

SHORT DESCRIPTION (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

He was in a medically induced coma for six months and continues to receive treatment at his home in Switzerland. Schumacher has not been seen in public since the December 2013 accident.

He was a frequent visitor to Las Vegas, where he was said to enjoy walking down the street unnoticed, owing to F1’s status as a niche sport on this side of the pond. Schumacher began his F1 career 10 years after the demise of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix and raced here only once — in a go-kart, in the Rio parking lot.

Hoping to sharpen his reflexes for a comeback, he competed in the 2009 SuperKarts USA nationals. It was like watching Tiger Woods play golf at a putt-putt course, or Pele play soccer on a foosball table.

But Las Vegan Matt Jaskol will never forget it.

A decade ago, Jaskol was on the fast track to auto racing’s big time and raced against Schumacher on a makeshift Rio parking lot course defined by hay bales and other temporary barriers — a far cry from the streets of Monaco and the other iconic circuits where Schumacher made his fame.

“He took me out real bad in a heat race,” said Jaskol, who made it as far as the Indy Lights series and appeared in the ABC reality show “Castaways” after his racing career stalled. “He (expletive) banzaied me, ripped my right front wheel clean off. Somebody said I should have asked him to sign the (bent) axle, that it would have been really cool to have.”

Matt Jaskol said it’s not every day that Michael Schumacher takes you out in a kart race, and that he still sometimes tells that story whenever racing people gather.

Green, white, checkered

— The shortest offseason in sports will end with a mighty roar Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 when an assortment of NASCAR teams and drivers descend on Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a Goodyear tire test open to spectators. A speedway spokesman said there is a good chance the Busch family of Las Vegas will be represented by at least one brother and possibly both.

— The Laps for Charity event benefiting the Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities is Jan. 29, during which racing fans and auto enthusiasts will be allowed to lap the 1.5-mile superspeedway in personal cars (and motorcycles). Drivers must be 18 and older, with three laps costing $35 and an additional three laps $25. For more information, email panderson@lvms.com or call 702-632-8242.

— Last month’s news of Kurt Busch leaving Stewart-Haas Racing for Chip Ganassi’s team finished No. 6 among the top 10 stories generating traffic on ESPN’s Jayski auto racing website for 2018. Kasey Kahne retiring from full-time NASCAR competition was No. 1.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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