ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (AP) - Scott Kalitta died Saturday when his Funny Car crashed and burst into flames 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 Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, where he died a short time later.
Witnesses told The Star-Ledger of Newark that Kalitta's Toyota Solara was traveling at an estimated speed of 300 mph when the crash occurred.
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.
Scott Kalitta is survived by wife Kathy and sons Corey and Colin.
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Brad Keselowski - a native of
Rochester Hills, Mich., about 20 miles away from Kalitta's hometown
of Mount Clemens - learned the news from a television report Saturday afternoon.
"That really hits close to home," Keselowski said after winning the pole position for Saturday night's race at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis. "(He was) a friend of my family's, and I send my thoughts and prayers out to him. That's tough to hear."
Last year, Funny Car driver Eric Medlen died after an accident in a testing session at Gainesville, Fla.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)