Orange County sheriff's deputies tried to pull over Neal at 3 a.m. Monday in San Clemente for not having a front license plate on his 2003 Chevrolet Corvette, a minor infraction that he could have settled without a fine, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.
Neal refused to stop and sped onto Interstate 5, where the California Highway Patrol took over the chase, Amormino said. Neal raced south at speeds of up to 140 mph and quickly pulled away from CHP officers.
"He was going so fast that they lost sight of him," Amormino said.
Because the infraction wasn't serious enough and Neal was endangering other drivers, officers decided to stop pursuing him, he said.
Neal finally pulled over after his engine blew up near La Jolla, 50 miles from where the chase started. Deputies arrested him without a struggle.
"You drive any car that far, about 50 miles, and that fast, it'll blow up because it's not built for that," Amormino said.
Neal was a NASCAR track racer at the old Ascot Park track in Gardena in the early 1980s, said Daytona Beach, Fla.-based NASCAR. He never won a national race.