By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
It has been six years since the NHRA lost Scott Kalitta at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. For the first time, Tony Bartone opened up about that day.
“I haven’t raced there since 2008,” he said. “I have never talked about this before – and people never asked me until now – so I’m going to tell you. I was the car next to Scott Kalitta in qualifying, and I was in the left lane, while he was in the right lane. He was a friend of mine, and I remember we were debuting a new chassis that race. I also remember we had a fuel tank problem that race. In the run against Scott, we shut off early, and as I was shutting off the car, I saw his car go past me, and then explode at the finish line.
“I had to stay away from all the emergency equipment, who were going to tend to him. Unfortunately, the rest is history. I had his phone number, and we talked a lot. This was a terrible event for our sport.”
Since the June 21st, 2008 tragic event, the NHRA along with a committee led by Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Tony Schumacher, and the NHRA Track Safety Committee, the sport developed sensors that monitors the engines of Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars. In case the cars backfire, the fuel pump shuts off automatically and the parachutes deploy immediately. The measure was put in place to reduce and eliminate circumstances that contributed to his death.
In addition, the NHRA made the move to go to 1,000 feet instead of the traditional quarter-mile of 1,320 feet.
“Life is life, and I wish he was still here,” Bartone added. “We would always run into each other at the track – and we both had marina businesses. That was the beginning of the relationship we had. Now, I’ll always be remembered as the guy in the other lane when things went out of control and took his life.”
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