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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Drag Race Crash in NJ, Racer Scott Kalitta Killed
Gene Blevins, Photographer
Woodland Hills | CA | USA | Posted: 11:51 PM on 06.21.08
->> Anyone there get anything on this fatal crash?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DziJdGwFQjU
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Thomas E. Witte, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cincinnati | OH | USA | Posted: 12:04 AM on 06.22.08
->> I was just getting ready to post about this. The footage isn't inherently graphic, but when you know Scott lost his life in the accident it makes it significantly harder to watch.

Drivers have walked away from fires like that before but watching the final second and a half of the clip... I just hope it was as painless as possible.
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David Bailey, Photographer
Flower Mound | TX | USA | Posted: 12:55 AM on 06.22.08
->> Horrible accident. Just further proof that they need to lengthen the end of the track. I don't know if that would have helped in this case, but it could have.
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Brad Penner, Photographer
Neptune | NJ | USA | Posted: 1:15 AM on 06.22.08
->> I shot photos there to go with a story on track safety not three months ago. That's not to say the track is unsafe or anything, it's just ironic more than anything else. I live less than five miles from there, and that was the only time I'd ever been there. Wow, it really makes you stop and think. I'm with Thomas, I hope it was as painless as possible.

-b.
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Will Lester, Photographer
Ontario | CA | USA | Posted: 1:52 AM on 06.22.08
->> Most tracks have gravel or sand pits at the end of the track it does not appear there was one here. It may not have mattered considering the speed he was traveling. From the video, it looks like he didn't even try to break. It's possible he was knocked out by the initial explosion.
The initial explosion appeared to be very similar to Tony Pedregon's in Pomona earlier this year.


I have also heard that NHRA officials confiscated or took possession of cameras by photographers that were at the top end of the racetrack. Any truth to this? Maybe National Dragster photog Marc Gewertz will comment.

On a personal note, over the years I've covered drag racing I've found that they are a much more friendlier group than other racing circles. I had met Scott on a number of occasions for various feature stories we did on him, and found him to be a great down-to-earth human being.
He'll be missed.
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Gene Blevins, Photographer
Woodland Hills | CA | USA | Posted: 2:15 AM on 06.22.08
->> There is this one photo on yahoo news from AP, but as of 11pm today there is no other shots of the crash on the wire?, just this of the car on fire..Gene
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080622/ap_on_sp_au_ra_ne/car_nhra_driver_kille...;_ylt=Al1wq9i1d8cTnlVE7ARtHDcLMxIF
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David Bailey, Photographer
Flower Mound | TX | USA | Posted: 2:24 AM on 06.22.08
->> This track did have a gravel pit at the end as well, but it just wasn't enough. I haven't shot at this track so Brad may be able to confirm my thoughts after looking at the video. It appears that there is a short "sand trap" (or gravel as it were) with a mesh fence at the end, but the concret wall on the right hand side seems to curve around to the left in front at the end, putting it directly in the path of the cars. It appears the large explosion happened after the impact with the wall at the end and that set off the large fireball explosion and sent the car into the air in many pieces. It looked survivable until the final impact.

I'm sure Mark Gewertz was there so maybe he can give us an eyewitness account.

Very sad and Scott will be missed. A couple of times I met him he was a nice guy.
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Walter Calahan, Photographer
Westminster | MD | USA | Posted: 8:53 AM on 06.22.08
->> I guess there's a lot of soul searching for the need for the end wall.

Terrible, terrible, terrible.
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Dennis Wierzbicki, Photographer
Plainfield | IL | USA | Posted: 9:46 AM on 06.22.08
->> Horrible tragedy.

I haven't watched a lot of NHRA, but it looks like the chute deployed between the time of the initial explosion and the impact with the wall. Does the chute come out automatically or is it released by the driver?
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Kevin P. Tucker, Photographer, Photo Editor
Rockland | DE | USA | Posted: 10:46 AM on 06.22.08
->> Having shot at E-Town more than a few times and being involved in the nostalgia funny car circuit I can add a few things...

E-Town has a sand trap with catch fencing at the end of the shut down area.

The sand trap is not very deep and from reports, the sand actually launched the car upward and through the catch fencing due to the high rate of speed.

There are reports that his car hit the "boom lift" at the end of the track that ESPN uses for their full track shots. This is coming from a few crew members from other teams that have been discussing this on forums so do not take it as verbatim.

The wall prevents drivers from going into the trees. The trees aren't that great in depth as Pension Road is just beyond the tree line. Pension Road can't be moved or shut down.

There is no way to adjust the track to add more shut down space for this type of accident.

Having catastrophic engine failure like Scott did causes the body to fold inward. It was more than just sneezing a blower. It will take a while to determine the exact problem that caused that type of engine failure.

It appeared from an amateur video taken at the traps (the 1320 ft. mark) that three pieces of the body came off during the explosion. That leaves the rest of the body, trees (internal body support) and tinwork (the name used to describe the firewall and surrounding protection that fits around the chassis that is attached to the underneath of a funny car body) that Scott could have been fighting with to control the car if he was conscious.

Located on the inside of the body (on the "tinwork") are normally the controls for the chutes. The chutes are attached to the rear of the body and are anchored to the chassis via a cross member behind the rear. When the body suffers failure as Scott's body did, the chutes can't deploy correctly.

One possibility is that the engine explosion was so devastating that Scott could not activate the fuel shutoff and it could have shredded the brake lines to the front and rear. The brake fluid reservoir/cylinder for the brakes is normally located on the right side near the driver's right foot. This is purely speculation on my part based on how a flopper's chassis is setup.

From what I have read from a few people who were onsite, none of which has been confirmed by outside sources, is that there are angles of this accident (video) that you will never see. Apparently, the footage has been turned over to the NJ State Police for investigation.

While the speeds have increased, Scott actually was in a safer car than what his father Connie ran back in the day when he ran both Top Fuel and Funny Car as the "Bounty Hunter".

Prayers for the family...
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Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 1:43 PM on 06.22.08
->> "There are reports that his car hit the "boom lift" at the end of the track that ESPN uses for their full track shots. This is coming from a few crew members from other teams that have been discussing this on forums so do not take it as verbatim."

In the ESPN video you can see the boom lift rock violently after the impact down at the wall. I think it's safe to say that some part (and probably not a small one) of the car hit the boom. Whether it was a chunk of the engine, or some other part of the car remains to be seen.

I also agree that sand/gravel traps can be a mixed blessing. I was at Laguna Seca when Champ Car's Patrick Carpentier was launched over a fence in big part due to the shape of the gravel trap he hit....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Rrinvd5Sk0
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Chris Collins, Photographer
Fayetteville/ATL | GA | US | Posted: 5:50 PM on 06.22.08
->> I drag raced for 5 years and its a terrible thing to see these accidents happen. There are always different causes that sometimes will never be known, when some look so violent and the driver walks away. The fact is that many of the tracks are far too short. Many of the tracks have far too little shutdown area and with the faster cars its something that can be hard to stop when everything goes right. But when fire burns the parachutes off and engines blow, it can make the need for more room to slow down so much more.

It appears that there is sandpit, catch net and then a concrete wall at the end of Englishtown Raceway.

All of the drivers know anytime can be the last time, but it could have been a different case altogether with more shutdown area.
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Robert Irvin, Photographer
Neptune | NJ | USA | Posted: 6:17 PM on 06.22.08
->> Let me start with God Speed Scott, Rest in Peace.

A few notes of clarification

The wall was not involved in the crash other than the wreckage ended up on it when all was done.

There was a remote camera on the boom lift that was struck, it had to be dragged away, all the controls were rendered useless as well as the remote camera.

Repairs to the trap at the track lasted until at least 3 a.m. mostly to the catch net and attaching points.

I dont think its far reach to believe that at the speed he was traveling that there was still plenty of downforce to bury the nose into the sand instead of riding over causing it to flip.

There were POWERade banners at the Kalitta pit today. You were hard pressed to find a spot to sign and leave your condolences. There were also tables with flowers and other items brought by fans.

It was truly a very somber day at the races, you could see it in everyones face.

OPINION: Adding shutdown space to a track when the driver isn't capable (unconscious, etc) of slowing the car regardless of length isn't going to fix anything, just make it farther for the Safety Safari to get to him/her to help. NOTE: Johnny West hit the wall about 60 feet out at Etown one year. He was knocked unconscious and the car took off down track and crashed at the end with almost a similar ending, fireball etc. Johnny West is still with us today as a crew chief.

Bob
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Marc Gewertz, Photographer
Santa Ana | CA | USA | Posted: 2:13 PM on 06.23.08
->> As Bob, Kevin and a few others have noted, Englishtown Raceway Park does have a sand trap, a catch net and a second sand trap at the end of the track.

The AP photo posted earlier was shot by a fan in the grandstands sitting right at the finish line, not a credentialed photographer. As for Will Lester's question earlier, I haven't heard about any cameras or cards being confiscated but don't quote me on that. To my knowledge there were no photgraphers down near the turnout area (end of the track) but there may have been a couple closer to the starting line shooting parachutes.

Drag racers are a very tight nit group of people, one big family and this incident has been devastating. Scott was a real racer who grew up working on fuel cars before getting into the drivers seat. Scott was one of 14 drivers to win NHRA national events in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Scott was also a two-time NHRA Top Fuel World champion (94-95). Our thoughts and prayers to out to his family and friends. He will be sorely missed.
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Jody Gomez, Photographer
Murrieta | CA | USA | Posted: 4:54 PM on 06.23.08
->> When I was little, my dad was a mechanic on a funny car called the Invader Corvette (I believe it's now known as the Invader). When he told me about the accident, he was very shaken and upset. He reminded me that Scott and I used to play together at the drag races when we were kids. My heart goes out to Scott's family and loved ones. This is a very sad time for racing. Godspeed Scott.

Jody
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Marc Gewertz, Photographer
Santa Ana | CA | USA | Posted: 7:59 PM on 06.23.08
->> I remember the Invader funny car Jody.

If anyone is interested, I just put some shots of Scott Kalitta on my Sportsshooter page.

Thanks,
Marc
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David Bailey, Photographer
Flower Mound | TX | USA | Posted: 8:10 PM on 06.23.08
->> Nice shots Marc. I really like #3 and #9. Thanks for sharing those.
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William Jurasz, Photographer, Assistant
Cedar Park | TX | USA | Posted: 9:10 AM on 06.24.08
->> I notice the video has been removed due to copyright claim by NHRA. How could they claim copyright ownership of the video?
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Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 9:45 AM on 06.24.08
->> William, If you'll recall at the end of most broadcasts of sporting events there's a notice along the lines of "This telecast is property of (insert sanctioning body) and all rights are reserved. Use, rebroadcast, etc. of the descriptions of this event are prohibited without the expressed written consent of (insert sanctioning body)..."

ESPN may have the rights to broadcast the event (or the show might even be a "time buy" by the NHRA), the content is still owned by the NHRA.
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Dominic Hanna, Photographer, Student/Intern
Bear | DE | United States | Posted: 12:26 PM on 06.24.08
->> Now this is something I haven't seen before with auto/drag racing. The NJ State Police is now investigating the crash.

http://tinyurl.com/4pbglf

With the way Kalitta's car came apart, I really hope there wasn't any gross neglignece involved.
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Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 1:48 PM on 06.24.08
->> "The NJ State Police is now investigating the crash."

Actually, that's pretty common for fatal racing accidents as well as a lot of accidental deaths by other means.
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Greg Ferguson, Photographer
Scottsdale | Az | USA | Posted: 5:56 PM on 06.27.08
->> Interestingly enough, the link on YouTube now shows...

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by National Hot Rod Association / ESPN, Inc."
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Kevin P. Tucker, Photographer, Photo Editor
Rockland | DE | USA | Posted: 6:55 PM on 06.27.08
->> For those still following this story...

http://www.dragracecentral.com/DRCStory.asp?ID=162197#indextop
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Nina Zhito, Photographer
bay area | CA | | Posted: 1:31 PM on 06.29.08
->> as an interesting aside, it is kalitta airway's charter division that has the government's contract to ferry u.s. military coffins bearing soldiers' remains...
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Will Lester, Photographer
Ontario | CA | USA | Posted: 9:30 PM on 07.02.08
->> The NHRA has announced they are shortening the distance for top fuel and funny car from 1,320 feet (quarter mile) to 1,000 feet beginning with the national event in Denver next week.
It is unclear if this will be temporary or permanent while they continue to investigate the death of Scott Kalitta last month.

www.nhra.com
has the complete story.
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Thread Title: Drag Race Crash in NJ, Racer Scott Kalitta Killed
Thread Started By: Gene Blevins
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