N.J. State Police, NHRA to study accident that killed Funny Car driver Kalitta
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey State Police and the National Hot Rod Association will conduct separate investigations into the accident that killed Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park over the weekend.
Kalitta, 46, died from multiple injuries after his car went out of control in the fourth round of qualifying Saturday.
"We don't have an update," NHRA spokesman Jerry Archambeault said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We are going through the process of seeing what occurred and what happened to determine what we can do to make the sport safer, like we have always done in the past."
Archambeault said an outside agency will lead the NHRA's investigation, aided by association officials and team members.
Kalitta's Toyota Solara was traveling at about 300 mph when it burst into flames and then crashed and exploded seconds later.
The state police fatal accident unit also will investigate the crash, Sgt. Julian Castellanos said.
"We will look at the vehicle, the electronics, the conditions of the track and, in this case, we have the rare chance to study the [video] footage of the accident," said Castellanos, adding that the unit also may examine toxicology results.
The state police investigation is expected to take four to six weeks, Castellanos said.
Michael Napp, the president and co-owner of Raceway Park, did not want to comment on the accident on Monday.
"It is under investigation and we don't want to speculate," Napp said. "We take track safety very seriously.
The Napp family posted a message on the track's Web site on Monday, calling Saturday a sad day in the world of drag racing.
"Today, everyone who is a drag racing fan is grateful to have been able to watch him compete on drag strips around the country," the Napps said of Kalitta. "His accomplishments and inspiration will forever have shaped the motorsports world."
Kalitta, a Palmetto, Fla., resident, started his career at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in 1982. His father, Connie Kalitta, was a longtime driver and team owner known as "The Bounty Hunter," and his cousin, Doug Kalitta, also drives competitively.
Since starting in 1955, there have been nine deaths at NHRA national events, four in Top Fuel, three in Funny Car and two in Pro Stock, spokesman Anthony Vestal said.
Darrell Russell was the last driver to have a fatal accident at a national event, in St. Louis in 2004.
Funny Car driver Eric Medlen died last year after an accident in a testing session at Gainesville, Fla.
The last Funny Car driver to die at a national event before Kalitta was Jerry Schwartz in Dallas in 1969.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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