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Scott Kalitta
Nationality American
Date of birth February 18, 1962(1962-02-18)
Place of birth Santa Monica, California
Died June 21, 2008 (aged 46)
Place of death Englishtown, New Jersey
Related to Connie Kalitta, Doug Kalitta
Top Fuel
Years active 1982–1997; 1999; 2003–2008
Wins 18
Poles 20
Best finish champion in 1994, 1995
Championship titles
1994, 1995 Top Fuel Season Champion
Kalitta's American International Top Fuel dragster
His pit crew working on his dragster in the pits

Scott Kalitta (February 18, 1962 – June 21, 2008) was an American drag racer who competed in the Funny Car class in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Powerade Drag Racing Series. He was killed in Englishtown, New Jersey, after an accident during qualifying. He had 17 career Top Fuel wins and 1 career Funny Car win, and at his death he was one of fourteen drivers to win in both divisions.[1]

Kalitta was son to veteran NHRA driver and crew chief Connie Kalitta and cousin to teammate Doug Kalitta.

Contents

Personal life

He made his home in Snead Island, Florida, with wife, Kathy and two sons, Colin and Corey. He was a native of Belleville, Michigan.[1]

Career

Scott Kalitta's career began in 1982 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.[1] His first career #1 qualifier happened at the Baton Rouge, Louisiana event in 1988.[2] He made his first win in 1989 at the NHRA's premiere series by taking the Funny Car event in Houston, Texas.[2]

He would move to Top Fuel during the 1990s.[2] Kalitta won his first event in this class at Topeka, Kansas in 1993, when he set a national speed record of 308.64 miles per hour (496.71 km/h) at that race for the win.[2]

The next two years were big for Kalitta, as he would win the Top Fuel championship both years.[2] In 1994, he became the first Top Fuel driver to have four straight event wins (Columbus, Topeka, Denver and Sonoma) and he won five events that season.[2] He won six events and 45 rounds of competition in 1995 to win the championship.[2] His 1996 season saw him win the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout at Sonoma enroute to a second place points finish.[2] He had the top speed at a series best eight races that season.[2] Kalitta won the Topeka event for a fourth straight year in 1997.[2] He retired in October of that season.[2]

Kalitta came back in 1999, making one final round in ten starts.[2] Kalitta returned to Top Fuel in 2003 after a three year layoff.[2] He made two final rounds and set a speed record at 333.95 miles per hour (537.44 km/h), but didn't certify the speed with a fast enough backup run to claim the national record.[2] In 2004 he recorded one win in two final round appearances.[2] He was the top qualified at both Las Vegas event, and finished in the Top five in season points.[2] His 2005 season saw him win two events.[2]

For 2006, Kalitta returned to Funny Car in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, but did not have as much success as he had in Top Fuel the previous two years. In the season, Kalitta drove his Kalitta Air-sponsored Monte Carlo and Solara (which he switched to late in the year) to a thirteenth place points finish, well behind eventual champion John Force.

Kalitta's 2007 Funny Car season was rather uneventful, as he qualified for 16 of 23 events[2] in his DHL-sponsored Solara and missed the inaugural NHRA Countdown to the Championship. His best finish of the season was a semi-finals appearance at Denver in July.[2] In 2008, he made his 36th and last final round appearance at Chicago, two weeks before his death.[3]

Death

On June 21, 2008, Kalitta was fatally injured during the final round of qualifying for the Lucas Oil NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.[1] Kalitta’s funny car was traveling at about 300 mph when the engine exploded into flames near the finish line.[1] The parachutes were damaged and failed to slow the vehicle. Kalitta's vehicle went through a sand trap at the end of the track and hit a concrete-filled post that supported a safety net.[4] He was transported to the Old Bridge Division of Raritan Bay Medical Center and was pronounced dead on arrival.[1]

The NHRA said on Kalitta's passing that “Scott shared the same passion for drag racing as his legendary father, Connie. He also shared the same desire to win, becoming a two-time series world champion. He left the sport for a very long period of time, to devote more time to his family, only to be driven to return to the drag strip to regain his championship form."[1]

At the time of his accident, Kalitta had already qualified for the following day's National event in the Funny Car class. The next day, at what would have been his opening elimination round event, his team stood on the starting line at his designated side of the dragstrip as Robert Hight, who would have been his opponent, idled his car down the quarter-mile track as a sign of respect.[5]

The following day, the NHRA began an investigation into what happened to cause the car to slam into the retaining wall at over 300 miles per hour.

Legacy

On 2 July 2008, the NHRA shortened Top Fuel and Funny Car races to 1,000 feet (301 m) in response to the ongoing investigation, and extra safety measures were placed at all tracks, including padded retaining walls at the end of sand traps, replacing the polymer nets held up by concrete posts. The 1,000 foot distance is still in use for the Top Fuel and Funny car categories. The FIA shortened the Mantorp Park round of the European Drag Racing Championship because of track concerns, but drag races at Hockenheimring remained at 1,320 feet because of its length.

As a direct result of Kalitta's death, a solution was sought to eliminate engine backfire, the cause of the spectacular engine fires often associated with Nitro burners. A solution was developed by 14 time Funny Car Champion John Force, former Funny Car and Top Fuel Champion Kenny Bernstein, and six time Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher: they developed a sensor that in the event of an engine backfire will automatically shut down the fuel pump and deploy the parachutes. Although several NHRA drivers have expressed their displeasure at the introduction of the new sensor, they admit that it should reduce, if not eliminate the circumstances that led to Kalitta's death. The device was made a mandatory safety requirement in 2009.

Preceded by
Eric Medlen
NHRA FullThrottle Drag Racing fatalities
2008
Succeeded by
Last NHRA fatality to date

References

External links

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