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NHRA's Kalitta killed in crash

June 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Scott Kalitta died Saturday when his funny car burst into flames and crashed at the end of the track during the final round of qualifying for the Lucas Oil NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

The NHRA said the 46-year-old Kalitta -- the 1994 and 1995 top-fuel season champion who had 18 career victories, 17 in top fuel and one in funny car -- was taken to the Old Bridge division of Raritan Bay Medical Center, where he died a short time later.

Kalitta's Toyota Solara was traveling at about 300 mph when it burst into flames.

The 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.

Kalitta had most of his racing success in top fuel, highlighted by his series titles in 1994 and 1995. He retired from racing in 1997, sitting out most of two seasons before returning for a 10-race campaign in 1999. He sat out three more seasons after that brief stint and then returned in 2003.

Kalitta started his professional career in top fuel in 1982, running limited events for four seasons before moving to funny cars in 1986 for his first full season of competition. He returned to that category full time in 2006.

One of only 14 drivers in NHRA history to win in both premier nitro categories, Kalitta's last win came in Chicago in 2005 in top fuel. He was second two weeks ago in Chicago, his 36th career NHRA final-round appearance.

He is survived by his father; wife, Kathy; and sons Corey, 14, and Colin, 8.

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