Sheriff: Distraction May Have Killed Silver State Classic RacerA 71-year old race driver in the Silver State Classic was killed Sunday as he neared the finish line.

According to Sheriff’s Department reports, Phil Bowser, of San Jose, Calif., died when he rolled his 1997 993 Porsche and it burst into flames on one of the final curves on SR 318 just north of Hiko. The race, held twice a year, covers a 90-mile stretch of highway between Lund and Hiko that is closed for the event.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said Bowser, a veteran of many Silver State Challenge races, was entered in the 150 mph division and was trying to complete the course with an average speed of at least 150 mph. Bowser’s brother was also entered in the race in the 145 mph division.

The accident happened about 9 a.m. First responders found the vehicle fully involved. Local Fire and EMS units also responded with White Pine EMS on standby.

Some reports say Bowser may have been distracted for a moment just before his car, going about 120 mph, entered one of the final curves on the course about three miles from the finish.

Bowser’s daughter Amy, was riding with him as navigator. Lee said the 44-year old Renowoman suffered only minor facial injuries. He said she mentioned she thought her father might have been distracted going into one of curves which led to the accident. She had attempted to get him out of the car once it caught fire, but was unable to do so before the wreckage exploded. She was taken to Las Vegas by Pahranagat Valley Ambulance.

Lee, who also serves as the County Coroner, said it appeared the Porsche drifted to the right shoulder of the roadway and tried maneuvering a slight left turn. The vehicle then abruptly rotated left, crossing both travel lanes, and left the highway on the east shoulder. It rolled over once, and caught fire.

The race was halted for about three hours after the accident, then resumed, but was later cancelled altogether due to heavy rains about 3 p.m.

Race officials report wrecks are fairly rare in the Silver State Classic, but do happen. And Lee said he knows of only three other fatalities in the 27-year history of the event. Richard DeKneef of California, and Merle Hall of Ely, died in a fiery crash in 2011, as they approached 200 mph and their Chevy Camaro blew a tire. Las Vegas driving instructor Terry Herman died in a wreck on the course in 1992.

The current speed record for the race is 217 mph.