September 18, 2008

Scott Kalitta Crash Findings Released by New Jersey State Police  

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On September 17, 2008, the New Jersey State Police Fatal Accident Unit released its findings on the drag strip crash that took the life of Scott Kalitta. You can read the complete report here.

Highlights

  • The report states that after the catastrophic engine failure, Scott applied mechanical braking and maintained steering control.
  • Scott entered the runoff area, into the pea gravel, at about 125 mph. The front end of Scott's car pitched up and the vehicle took flight, went over a concrete barrier, and struck the hollow steel catch net support post.
  • Scott's car continued 15' before impacting the cast iron counterbalance portion of an aerial boom lift vehicle, which was in place for ESPN. Scott's car continued to make several impacts with the 23,000 lb. boom vehicle.
  • Accelerometers on Scott's car recorded mutiple impacts over 100G, with some exceeding 200G.
  • Toxicology tests revealed Scott's blood alcohol level was .02%.
IN my opinion, once Scott's car became airborne, he had very little chance of surviving this crash. By becoming airborne, Scott's car did not benefit from any of the devices put in place to safely slow the car down. He simply flew over them.

It seems rather obvious that the impact with the 23,000 lb. boom vehicle was fatal, and with hindsight, I'm sure everyone would agree that the boom shouldn't have been there. Had it not been for the boom though, Scott's car would have gone into the woods and possibly across Pension Rd. That scenario is also a whole lot of NOT GOOD.

Obviously, NHRA has got to find a way to safely decelerate these cars when they approach the end of the runoff lane. More importantly though, they need to find a way to contain the cars so that they actually benefit from the runoff area, and not fly over, or around it.

I believe the NHRA should actually do some crash testing. They should build a runoff area somewhere where they can design and test safety ideas. They need to find out why Scott's car went airborne and prevent it from happening again. They need to implement standards that can be applied at all tracks.

In the meantime, I will gladly live with racing to the 1000' mark, allowing the racers an additional 320' to stop.

On a final note, I don't know what to make of the finding that Scott's BAC was .02%. I can't see how this would have affected the outcome of the crash at all, but it sure is not the kind of publicity the NHRA needs right now.

What next?

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