Drag racer Scott Kalitta died Saturday after his Funny Car crashed and exploded into flames during a National Hot Rod Association event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Kalitta, 46, was extricated from the car and transported to Raritan Bay Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead from multiple injuries suffered after his car veered out of control.
The parachute in Kalitta's Toyota Solara Funny Car failed to deploy and the car cruised off the quarter-mile strip at a speed estimated more than 300 miles per hour during qualifying action at the 39th annual Lucas Oil NHRA SuperNationals.
Don Prudhomme, a legendary figure in drag racing, witnessed the scene and said Kalitta's car "went into a million pieces."
"I haven't witnessed anything like that in a number of years," Prudhomme said. "These cars, for the most part, are pretty damn safe. As many runs as we make down a quarter-mile, as many runs as he's made, they're pretty damn safe.
"The car didn't slow up enough, (the car) got airborne, and he happened to hit a post that's virtually impossible to do. I mean, I would've never thought that that could happen. I would've never thought that you could get airborne and hit that guardrail and hit that post."
The concrete post, Prudhomme said, serves as support for the safety net that's designed to catch cars veering off the strip. Since Kalitta's parachute never deployed, Prudhomme said the car "never had a chance" once it hit the post at such a rapid speed.