Kalitta Funny Car Team Determined to Race Again in '08
The loss of Funny Car driver and two-time Top Fuel world champion Scott Kalitta as the result of an accident at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park June 21 left a void in the pits that has been felt by racers and fans alike. Though that void can never be filled completely, the DHL-sponsored Funny Car team will hit the racetrack again this season and perhaps fulfill Kalitta's vision by completing his and father Connie's quest to field a winner in the Funny Car ranks, which they had worked tirelessly toward since their return to the class in 2006.
The Kalitta Motorsports team is still searching for answers regarding Kalitta's accident along with exploring driver possibilities but is geared toward a return to the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series tour this season.
"We will bring the Funny Car back out this year; we just don't know when," said Jim Oberhofer, team manager of Kalitta Motorsports and crew chief for Hillary Will. "It could be Brainerd, it could be Indy, or it could be later. Connie is bound and determined to get it back out there."
The challenge of racing in the Funny Car class for the first time since 1989 proved to be just that. Connie, who shares tuning duties on the DHL Toyota Solara with crew chief Glenn Mikres, wanted to master the shorter-wheelbase counterparts to his more familiar Top Fuel drivers, and Scott felt he had unfinished business in the category. He had only one flopper win to his credit (at Houston Raceway Park in 1989), and he thought he did all he could in the Top Fuel ranks after world championships in 1994 and 1995, 17 wins, and national record performances.
The team struggled initially, winning only seven eliminations rounds in 2006 and four in 2007. The team showed promise at times but was unable to find the consistency needed to score on race day. The group appeared to be on the upswing this season, though. Scott made his first final-round appearance since his Funny Car return at the Chicago event, filling the team with confidence prior to Englishtown.
"When Connie first talked about putting a Funny Car on the track for 2006, he wanted to do it for the challenge of taking something different and making it competitive and maybe win races with it," explained Oberhofer. "They struggled for the first two years, but the car was finally showing signs of life. I think that runner-up in Chicago was a turn in the right direction, and Connie Kalitta doesn't quit on nothin'."
A lack of parts and pieces isn't an issue for the DHL team, which has a brand-new chassis sitting in its shop waiting to be put together. However, the search for answers regarding the accident is ongoing, and no driver has been slated to wheel the 7,000-horsepower flopper at this time.
"It's hard to get motivated about looking for a driver because you can never replace Scott," said Oberhofer. "We've talked to people like Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson to get their insight. Our choices are pretty limited since we can't test and therefore can't license anybody. We'll have something within the next couple weeks as far as a driver and a timeline of when we can get back out there.
"Obviously, we are first and foremost trying to figure out what happened and what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else," Oberhofer continued. "Scott's accident may have been a one-in-a-million deal, but we're going to do what we can to minimize those odds even further. That's a promise we made to Scott's wife. Maybe Scott can save a life." NHRA.com