A deadly difference

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

There were two deaths this past week in motor racing and attempts have been made elsewhere to link the two, as if drag racer Scott Kalitta's accident at Old Bridge Township (N.J.) Raceway Park was somehow comparable to the unfortunate crash that killed a Michigan man, Dino Crescentini, at Ontario's Mosport International Raceway.

With all due respect to Crescentini and his grieving family, he could hardly be compared to Kalitta -- a multiple National Hot Rod Association champion.

Kalitta was a professional race car driver, who operated a full-time racing team with a budget in the millions of dollars. Scott came by his craft honestly, as the son of Connie Kalitta, one of drag racing's true pioneers.

Crescentini was an amateur who took part in vintage racing festivals -- much the way your local dentist is a amateur hockey player when he straps on the blades for his Friday night industrial league game.

It doesn't make him comparable to an NHL player. And in the same vein, Crescentini, for all his passion for motor sports, can't be compared to someone of Kalitta's pedigree.

Kalitta was practically born on a drag strip, and his family's fortune has its roots in the sport. He used his racing money to start a successful cargo airline and marina in his native Florida.

Crescentini, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to be able to be a real life Walter Mitty, living out his dreams in a race car -- Gilles Villeneuve's 1977 Wolf Dallara -- he otherwise would only be able to see in a museum.

That he took the car to festivals like the one at Mosport was commendable, giving fans a chance to see a legendary race car up close.

Crescentini, according to those who regularly attend vintage events and knew him, was an outstanding individual who certainly didn't deserve to die this past Sunday.

And neither did Kalitta, but his demise came doing what he did for a living -- racing cars at the sport's highest level. Crescentini, on the other hand, was participating in his hobby.

STRAIGHT LINE SPEED

We don't talk enough in this space about drag racing, primarily because, outside of three International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) events at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Toronto Motorsports Park and Grand Bend (Ont.) Motorplex, there are too few big time races in this country.

And that's a shame because the adrenalin rush of seeing and hearing an 8,000 horsepower Top Fuel Dragster traverse a quarter-mile in about four seconds, reaching speeds of more than 500 km/h, is second to none in any sport, any where.

And this Saturday at Toronto Motorsports Park the Pro Modified Racing Association will bring its show to Cayuga's quarter-mile.

The KC Auto Parts Family Day PMRA Challenge goes all day with qualifying at 2 p.m. EDT and the finals at 10 p.m.

In Edmonton at Castrol Raceway, preparation is under way for the IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals featuring the Knoll-Gas Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series July 4 -6.

Part of that weekend's racing will be Carl Spiering of Jordan Station, Ont., and his two daughters Lisa and Monica -- Canada's own version of John Force and his girls.

While the girls will be strapping into dragsters for their runs, Carl will be in his championship winning 1963 Corvette-bodied Pro Modified, a car capable of sub-six-second runs in the quarter-mile at nearly 400 km/h.

"It was always a dragster," Lisa said of her choice of car. "There was never any question about it."

FINISH LINES

Patrick Carpentier will do double duty at New Hampshire starting tomorrow driving the No. 9 Gillett-Evernham Motorsports Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide series as well as his regular ride in the No. 10 GEM Dodge in the Sprint Cup series ... Toronto's Ron Fellows was a Kevin Harvick mistake away from coming home from Infineon Raceway's Sprint Cup race with a podium finish -- quite possibly a win -- this past Sunday. His No. 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet was running sixth when Harvick missed a corner collecting Fellows, Tony Stewart and David Gilliland.


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