10 Crashes That Changed Motor Sports Forever

Funny Car's Scott Kalitta
Scott Kalitta’s Funny Car burst into flames when the engine exploded. Kalitta’s fatal crash catalyzed the National Hot Rod Association to make major changes to the sport. © 2008 sdowden/"Scott Kalitta"/CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

In June 2008, Scott Kalitta drove in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown, New Jersey. The event was a series of drag races, and Kalitta was behind the wheel of his Funny Car. A Funny Car is a type of dragster that looks similar to a regular car, but its body lifts off the car's chassis like an alligator opening its mouth. Unlike most other dragsters, Funny Car engines sit in front of the driver.

At 46, Kalitta was no Funny Car rookie — he had already won the series championship in 1994 and 1995. At a qualifying run for this race, however, the engine of Kalitta's car exploded while he was going about 300 mph (483 kph) [source: Hardigree]. The car hit a sand trap and crashed, fatally injuring Kalitta.

After investigating the crash, the NHRA limited speed, decreased the length of tracks and increased the size of sandpit and runoff areas to allow cars a chance to slow down before they collide with barriers [source: Courchesne].