Scott Kalitta 'bangs' his way in Funny Car

Scott Kalitta is bangin' his way into NHRA's Funny Car class even through his team's light-hearted ribbing Ypsilanti, Mich., (Feb. 27, 2006) -- Two-time Top Fuel NHRA World Champion (1994-1995) and current pilot of the new Kalitta Air Funny ...

Scott Kalitta is bangin' his way into NHRA's Funny Car class even through his team's light-hearted ribbing

Ypsilanti, Mich., (Feb. 27, 2006) -- Two-time Top Fuel NHRA World Champion (1994-1995) and current pilot of the new Kalitta Air Funny Car Scott Kalitta has been around the sport of drag racing in some capacity or another for his entire life. Kalitta was born into the quarter-mile lifestyle as the only son of racing legend, crew chief, and multi-car team owner Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta. Scott followed his famous father and began driving drag racing hot rods as soon as he was able to reach the pedals.

Scott has spent most of his racing career behind the wheel of a nitro-fueled Top Fuel dragster, but won his first NHRA national event in 1989 at the controls of a nitro Funny Car in Houston. Scott, who in 2006 is celebrating 25 years since he first drove a nitro-propelled race car in competition, switched to Top Fuel at the end of the 1990 NHRA season and remained in the quickest and fastest NHRA professional class to win two championships and 17 national events. Now back in Funny Car, the NHRA's only other nitro-powered category, Scott's driving career has taken another turn.

Speaking of turns, a Funny Car, just like every other NHRA race car, races in a straight line and turning is more of a means of correcting a race car and not necessarily steering it until it's time to turn off of the end of the drag strip. In pre-season testing for this year's 23-event NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Scott had some turning "issues" and banged against the retaining wall not once, but twice. The team realized that there was a problem with the front left wheel rubbing against the carbon fiber body that was causing the car to move to the left. The problem was fixed and Scott and his Kalitta Air team picked up the pieces and moved on to run a career-best elapsed time and speed (Funny Car), 4.891 seconds at 318 mph for Scott in testing in Las Vegas.

With all of Scott's history, some good and some not so good, in NHRA drag racing at race tracks across the United States, he's been around long enough to have a collection of stories and occasionally the accompanying photos to show and tell about his racing friends. It's not uncommon to see Scott playing practical jokes on teammates, crew guys and other competitors.

Scott's crew chief, longtime friend, and former Funny Car driver Johnny West thought it was time to return the farcical favor. First, West affixed a tongue-in-cheek decal to the back of Scott's Funny Car body that reads "Caution: This Vehicle Makes Abrupt Lane Changes". Then, in a considerably more visible display, West and the Kalitta Air crew members had specially designed t-shirts made for them all, except Scott, to commemorate their driver's rocky re-entry into the Funny Car class. The shirts read "I Survived Scott Kalitta's (a.k.a. Harvey Wallbanger) Return to Funny Car in 2006" on the back.

Scott was unaware until recently of his crew's antics. Being the consummate joker himself, he took the gags in stride.

"Yeah, my guys think that it's funny now, but none of us were laughing then," Scott said.

"We're very serious about what we do and we want to go out and perform as best we can every lap, but sometimes you just have to remember to have fun too. We're a racing team, so it should be fun. These guys know that I'll get a payback though. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, but I'm sure it will be a good one."

-km

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Scott Kalitta