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October 22, 2014

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NHRA shortens nitro races to 1,000 feet

The NHRA announced today that it would shorten Top Fuel and Funny Car races from a quarter of a mile to 1,000 feet while the sanctioning body continues to collect data from the Funny Car crash that claimed the life of driver Scott Kalitta on June 21 in Englishtown, N.J.

Here is the complete text of the press release issued today by the NHRA:

GLENDORA, Calif. -- As the investigation continues into the tragic accident that took the life of driver Scott Kalitta, NHRA announced today that beginning at the Mopar Mile High Nationals in Denver, Colo., both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes will race to 1,000 feet instead of the traditional 1,320 feet or one-quarter mile. This is an interim step that is being taken while NHRA continues to analyze and determine whether changes should be made to build upon the sport's long standing safety record, given the inherent risks and ever-present dangers associated with the sport.

This interim change was made by NHRA in collaboration with professional race teams. NHRA believes that racing the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes to 1,000 feet will allow NHRA and the racing community time to evaluate, analyze and implement potential changes based on the safety initiatives outlined last week.

With the change, fans will still be able to enjoy the sights, sounds and thrill of NHRA nitro racing with speeds around 300 mph and quick elapsed times to 1,000 feet.

Over the years, NHRA has implemented many initiatives to enhance safety including measures to limit speeds from increasing, personal protective gear, vehicle improvements, and track enhancements such as sand traps, catch nets and concrete barriers the entire length of the drag strip.

In the wake of the tragic series of events that took Kalitta’s life, the following technical issues are currently under investigation: 1) what might be done to reduce engine failures; 2) parachute mounting techniques and materials as well as identifying a parachute material that could be more fire resistant; 3) exploring whether there is a way to increase brake efficiency when cars lose downforce due to the loss of the body; 4) analyzing additional methods that might be developed at the top end of the race track to help arrest runaway vehicles; 5) considering whether current speeds should be further limited or reduced to potentially improve safety.

“The board members of the Professional Racers Owners Organization (PRO) wholeheartedly and unanimously support this decision,” said its president Kenny Bernstein. “We want to thank NHRA for listening to our input and suggestions to incorporate these changes. It is not lost on any of us that this constitutes a change in our history of running a quarter-mile, but it’s the most immediate adjustment we can make in the interest of safety which is foremost on everyone’s mind.

"This may be a temporary change and we recognize it is not the total answer. We will continue to work hand in hand with NHRA to evaluate other methods of making Top Fuel and Funny Car competition safer so that we might return to our quarter-mile racing standard. We also want to thank Connie Kalitta for his invaluable input. He has been a rock through these difficult times.”

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