NASCAR FAMILY HONORS DRAG RACER
The invocation before Saturday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race near Milwaukee included thoughts of Scott Kalitta, who died a few hours earlier in an NHRA national tour drag race in New Jersey.
The life of the two-time NHRA Top Fuel season champion and son of drag racing legend Connie Kalitta also was honored before the NASCAR All-American Series began at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Bullring.
Racing truly is a fraternity and an extended family, especially when tragedy strikes.
The engine in Kalitta’s Funny Car exploded right after completing a 300-mph run in qualifying at Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown. The car continued at nearly full speed. One source said the car might have clipped a pole supporting the first of two safety nets and exploded.
Many drivers believe the slow-down area past the finish line at the track is not long enough for cars capable of 330 mph.
Some drag strips can’t be lengthened, and I might finally be supportive of shortening the quarter-mile sport to 1,000-foot races.
NEVER AT THE TRACK
No race car driver dies at a racetrack, even if he does. Kalitta is believed to have died at the track before his body was transported to a hospital where he was officially pronounced dead.
Tracks traditionally do not want an event stopped for an investigation and the sigma of having an on-site fatality.
TIME TO TURN THE PAGE
Former IndyCar television announcer Paul Page is the co-host for NHRA races for ESPN2. He needs to retire. Now. This year he has referred to superchargers as turbochargers twice. But it was an asinine comment he made during a tribute show on Kalitta on Saturday that sealed the deal.
After noting Kalitta had retired from racing twice (1998 and 2001-02) he said, “Without racing, life had no meaning.”
Tell that to Kalitta's two sons, wife, father and friends.
SECOND FATALITY IN 15 MONTHS
Kalitta's death is the second fatality of a Funny Car driver and third major accident in the category since Eric Medlen died four days after sustaining injuries in a March 19, 2007, testing crash in Gainesville, Fla.
About five months later, John Force, the owner of Medlen’s team, was severely injured during an NHRA race near Dallas but has recovered and returned to racing at the beginning of this year.
Car safety has been improved greatly since the Medlen and Force crashes, thanks solely to John Force Racing and John Medlen, Eric’s father and crew chief.
Now it’s time for NHRA to focus on the tracks.
On Saturday’s ESPN2 show, Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon said he has no reservations about getting back into his Funny Car for Sunday’s eliminations. But he challenged NHRA for not having the shutdown area extended at some tracks, including the one in Englishtown.
“Some areas probably need addressed,” he told ESPN2.