The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Auto Racing

October 17, 2013

Speedway president: Track has strict alcohol abuse policies

Driver arrested after crash last weekend

ANDERSON — The owner of Anderson Speedway says he and track officials will be more vigilant after an alleged drunken race driver crashed into another car after being flagged out of a race last weekend.

Speedway president Rick Dawson said his track has strict policies in place concerning alcohol and drug abuse, and almost every driver abides by them.

"But there will be people who fall through the cracks. We can't test everyone," Dawson said.

Dawson also said the incident Saturday night was like nothing he had experienced in years of track ownership.

Tommy Grant Lathan, 49, of Anderson, was arrested Sunday morning and charged with one count of operating while intoxicated, one count of criminal recklessness and one count of intimidation.

According to Dawson and police reports, Lathan had been black-flagged and forced out of a figure-eight race. Dawson said track officials noticed almost immediately that Lathan was driving erratically and flagged him off the track.

According to Dawson, the races Saturday were sanctioned events so there was an extra group of outside officials who helped identify the odd behavior and attributed it to Lathan.

On about the 60th lap, about two-thirds of the way through the race, Lathan drove his car back onto the track from the pit area and attempted to re-enter the race. Track officials again black-flagged him and directed him to a parking area. Then without apparent warning, Lathan's car crossed over and crashed into another race car.

Neither driver was hurt, but Dawson immediately suspected Lathan of being intoxicated, and police were contacted.

"It's no different than people who get picked up by police for drunk driving every day: they think they can get away with it," Dawson said. "I can tell you, without question, he was impaired by some kind of substance."

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