Drag Racing Mourns a Loss
The sport of drag racing is once again carrying a very heavy heart following the truly tragic events of June 21 at Englishtown, NJ, that claimed the life of Scott Kalitta, one of drag racing’s all-time best and most talented drivers.
As was with the case with the loss of Eric Medlen last year, I apologize that I am incapable of finding the correct words that can appropriately express what I or anyone associated with the sport is feeling.
I knew Scott Kalitta. I will remember him as a fierce competitor, a skilled and champion racer, a successful businessman and a devoted family man. I reflect back with a smile on all the occasions I had the pleasure to interact with Scott from a media perspective. I will never forget a day early in my media career when he and his father Connie took me on a personal and extensive tour of their cargo plane facility and race shop in Ypsilanti, MI. That day marked both an important cornerstone for my journalistic future and was a day during which I gained a much higher level of understanding and respect for the sport of drag racing and its participants.
We will miss you Scott. To Scott’s wife Kathy, sons Cory and Colin, father Connie and to his extended family, the entire Kalitta Racing team, we share your agony.
While still conducting its investigation into the details of the tragic accident that took the life of driver Scott Kalitta, NHRA announced some of its initial findings and subsequent steps being taken to continue its efforts to make the sport safer on June 27.
It was determined that a tragic series of events took place that afternoon. An engine exploded near the end of the run near the right catch net pole, and hit the television camera boom beyond the end of the sand trap before coming to a rest.
This sequence of events resulted in the passing of the two-time world champion and veteran second-generation driver.
The New Jersey State Police investigation team was on site the same day, working with NHRA officials as both conducted their investigation. Once it becomes available, NHRA will analyze the State Police report for any additional information on the incident. NHRA also continued its own investigation by bringing mechanical engineer and accident reconstruction expert David McCandless, M.S. M.E., P.E., to the site. McCandless is an independent engineer with more than 15 years of experience in reconstructing vehicular accidents. McCandless worked with NHRA officials, members of the Kalitta race team, and officers from the New Jersey State Police accident investigation team on site. McCandless examined and analyzed the vehicle, the track and other data, and his investigation is still underway. The Delphi technical team and Ford recovered and are analyzing the “Blue Box” data recorder data and NHRA is using this data and analysis in its investigation.
After its preliminary investigation, NHRA identified several areas to analyze and determine whether changes should be made to build upon the sport’s long standing safety record, given the inherent risks and ever-present dangers associated with race cars traveling a quarter mile at more than 300 mph.
Extensive investigation of technical issues around and including engine failure, parachute materials, brakes, race track speeds and shutdown area standards are under review.
NHRA will continue to seek and welcome input from race teams on these and other issues in the coming weeks and months ahead. NHRA will release additional information from its ongoing investigation as it becomes available.