On June 21, Scott Kalitta died in a fiery crash of his funny car at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey. In the wake of this loss and devastating event, the NHRA has been trying to figure out what caused this tragic event and make changes to help protect their drivers.Two weeks ago the racing body announced it would reduce the length of its Funny Car and Top Fuel classes from 1,320 feet down to 1,000 feet. This will reduce the top speeds while offering more track left over for drivers to slow down. This is a temporary measure but the NHRA promises more measures are being considered to increase driver safety and more changes are on the way.
Some of the ideas being considered are, altering parachute mounting techniques and materials as well as identifying a parachute material that could be more fire resistant, what might be done to reduce engine failures, and analyzing whether current speeds should be further limited or reduced to potentially improve safety.
The balance of safety and producing exciting drag racing, which is inherently a dangerous activity, is a hard one to reach.
In trying to achieve this balance, the NHRA has received some flak from fans and drivers because of a slow reaction to the dramatic increase in car speeds over the last few decades. Many drivers expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of updates to runoffs distance and time for cars running quicker and much higher speed quarter mile runs.
Local racers Bob and Brian Blitz have raced at the Englishtown track where Kalitta died and said the sport has outgrown the tracks. Bob Blitz says the NHRA has to and will "slow the cars down and elongate the tracks." He applauds the NHRA for "acting immediately" to investigate the crash and implement measures to ensure driver safety. He calls the entire drag racing community a family and reiterates the feelings of all those involved in the sport when it comes to safety measures "Nobody cares about the car as long as the drivers okay."
The 46-year-old Kalitta died shortly after the race at Old Bridge division of Raritan Bay Medical center. A resident of Palmetto Florida, he is survived by his father, wife Kathy and sons Corey, 14, and Colin, 8.