Funny Car racer Scott Kalitta died on Saturday, June 21, in Englishtown, New Jersey, when his Toyota Solara funny car's engine exploded while making a qualifying attempt at the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the site of his first career race in ...
Funny Car racer Scott Kalitta died on Saturday, June 21, in Englishtown, New Jersey, when his Toyota Solara funny car's engine exploded while making a qualifying attempt at the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the site of his first career race in 1982.
It is believed that Kalitta, age 46, lost consciousness before the end of the racing surface as the now-on-fire Toyota did not slow before hitting the sand-filled runoff area; neither did the parachute deploy. The car continued through the runoff area before vaulting over the catch-fence in a second explosion.
He was traveling at an estimated speed of 300 mph at the time of the accident on the closed circuit in today's NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, in the final round of qualifying to set the first-round pairings in the 11th round of NHRA pro competition this year. On Friday, Kalitta was 15th fastest (5.009, 247.52mph) and was attempting to make a top run that would place him in the final top 16, allowing him to make it to Sunday's final eliminations.
According to the Kalitta Motorsports statement, Kalitta was extracted from his car by NHRA emergency services officials and transported to Old Bridge Township Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
"We are deeply saddened and want to pass along our sincere condolences to the entire Kalitta family," said a statement from the NHRA. "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 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. Scott was a terrific driver and perhaps more importantly a better person and a great father to his two kids. He will be truly missed by the entire NHRA community."
Due to the death of their teammate, Doug Kalitta, Dave Grubnic and Hillary Will have withdrawn from Sunday's final eliminations.
Two weeks ago, Kalitta made it to the final Funny Car round at Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois. He landed his best finish of the season, losing to Tony Pedregon and leaving the event with the second-place finish.
The son of NHRA legend and team owner Connie Kalitta, Scott followed in his father footsteps as a competitive driver. His first win came in Houston in 1989 in Funny Car. Kalitta moved to Top Fuel and in 1993, won in Topeka before earning two NHRA Top Fuel championships with 11 event victories (1994, '95). He retired in 1997, came back briefly in 1999 before again taking a backseat in NHRA competition.
Kalitta's 2003 return was in Top Fuel where he remained before making the switch to make a return to Funny Car in 2006.
Scott Kalitta is survived by his wife, Kathy and two sons: Corey, 14, and Colin, 8; and his father, Connie. Also he leaves behind other family members, including his cousin, Doug Kalitta, a Top Fuel driver for the Kalitta Motorsports team.
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