By admin | May 14, 2009
By Steve Monday
The National Hot Rod Association will conduct a not so secret Fuel Funny Car engine combination test following the upcoming NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol.
This will be the first of many of these type tests in hopes of restoring NHRA Drag Racing Top Fuel and Funny Car classes back to a 1/4 mile racing distance. The racing length has been reduced to 1000′ for both TF and FC since Scott Kalitta’s horrific crash and death during the NHRA Supernationals last season.
During the annual event held at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown N.J., Kalitta’s race car exploded in flames that severely compromised the car’s exterior body and components. Kalitta was unable to slow the car and crashed heavily at the end of the track.
Unfortunately for Kalitta, his explosion could not have occurred at a worse NHRA venue. OBTRP has one of, if not the, shortest shut down
and run off area on the NHRA tour. Compound this with an ESPN camera boom being located in the run off area, a recipe of disaster awaited Scott Kalitta.
NHRA is looking into a redesign of the engine combination that would result in slower elapsed times and, more importantly, reduced top end speeds in the fuel classes.
While NHRA should be applauded for the new driver safety measures that
resulted from this tragedy, one has to wonder if this is the most practical approach.
Certainly, Kalitta’s engine explosion was a contributing factor in his
death, but it was not the cause. A lack of proper shut down length and
additional run off sealed Kalitta’s fate.
NHRA should mandate that any race track with less than ideal shut down area must lengthen and upgrade the shut down and runoff portions of the track.
In 2004, I witnessed an NHRA sportsman racer lose his life during the NHRA Sportsnational Open that is held annually at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green Ky.
The driver lost control and crashed into the retaining wall. Unfortunely, the area where he impacted the retaining wall had an opening to allow the race cars an early exit from the racing
surface. Needless to say, his race car disintegrating upon impact in the
The track owner subsequently upgraded the 1/4 mile track with a
concrete retaining wall that had no on-track openings. The Beech Bend staff and management upgraded their facility with driver safety in mind.
Was this expensive? Yes. Was this the right approach? Yes.
Although one life was lost, the upgrade will certainly help prevent a similar incident from occurring at Beech Bend again.
NHRA has and will continue to have driver safety at the forefront. As it should. But, that should not be limited to the race cars and driver safety equipment. The race tracks should be included as well.
After all, without showman, there is no show.
Steve Monday is a guest blogger for RacingWithRich.com.
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