NHRA Funny Car Class Suffers Another Loss: R.I.P. Scott Kalitta

L.J. BurgessSenior Writer IJune 21, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008 Englishtown, N.J.

Tragedy struck the NHRA racing community again today. Scott Kalitta's Toyota burst into flames and crashed at the end of his final qualifying round for the Lucas Oil NHRA Supernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

The DHL-sponsored Solara was traveling an estimated 300 mph when its nitro fuel system exploded and Kalitta lost control of the car. The Toyota plowed through the runoff area, through a sand trap, vaulted a catch fence and exploded against the retaining wall at the end of the course.

Kalitta was rushed to Raritan Bay Medical Center, where he was treated for traumatic injuries but declared dead a short time after arrival. Scott Kalitta was 46 years old.

Scott Kalitta is survived by his wife, Cathy, and sons, Colin and Corey.

This is the second tragedy to visit top tier drag racing in the past year. In 2007, NHRA Funny Car driver Eric Medlin died from injuries sustained in a testing accident in Gainesville, Florida.

Ironically, Scott Kalitta died at the same track where he ran his maiden race in 1982.

Kalitta was born into a drag-racing family. Sired by the famous NHRA Top Fuel racer and commercial airline owner Conrad "Connie" Kalitta "The Bounty Hunter" and cousin and teammate of Top Fuel driver and USAC Sprint Car Champion Doug Kalitta, Scott Kalitta was raised in the rarified air of the sport's pioneers.

Scott Kallita began his Top Fuel professional racing career in 1982 and went full time in Funny Car class in 1986 before moving back to the Top Fuel class. He was the NHRA Top Fuel Champion in 1994 and 1995, finished second in points in 1996 and retired at the top of his game in 1997.

Scott was one of only 14 NHRA drivers to score wins in both top Nitro classes.

After a short-lived comeback in 1999 Scott Kalitta returned to Top Fuel in 2003 and regained his place in the NHRA's top tier with a Top Five in points in 2004 and two wins in 2005.

After a switch to the Funny Car class for 2006, Kalitta struggled to find success in his family-sponsored Chevrolet Monte Carlo and had recently switched to a Toyota Solara with cargo delivery service DHL as his sponsor.

Condolences go out to his family, friends and the entire NHRA organization and competitors.

Scott will be missed.

photo credit : Associated Press