Tragedy and reflection

Aug. 30, 2008
How the Scott Kalitta accident prompted a business review

Everyone gathered at the bottom of the escalator Saturday morning and we departed the hotel full of anticipation for the NHRA event held in Englishtown, N.J., to spend the weekend with Kalitta Motorsports, which fields three Top Fuel dragsters and one Top Fuel funny car.

Watching Top Fuel racing, having two 8,000-hp cars travel past you at speeds topping 300 mph and vibrate every square inch of your body, is truly amazing. And after the run the teams tear down the cars, rebuild them and do it all over again — all within 45 minutes! If your brand is the sponsor of a team, you can watch as the tools seem to reach the same speeds as the cars, while the crews meet turn-around times.

Several years back at our tool fair in Dallas, my wife and I met the Kalittas and through the years we have made many friends within the team. Arrival at the pits always involves many hugs, handshakes, catching up on lost time and sharing stories about the kids.

As the day progressed, the cars were taken down to the start line for qualifying runs for the main event on Sunday, and we found our way to the stands to watch. After the qualifying runs, we usually return to the pits and talk about the runs and watch as the crews create an automotive frenzy competing against the clock.

The day seemed no different then others past; we headed back to the bleachers for the second round of qualifying and talked about the upcoming supper with everyone and just kicking back and relaxing. Little did anyone imagine how everything was about to change.

It was after the Top Fuel dragsters made their passes that the Top Fuel funny car class came to the line. Scott Kalitta piloted the DHL funny car and he made a good pass — but as he passed the finish line things went terribly wrong. Just like that Scott was taken from his family, his friends and his fans. Shock and disbelief took over all emotions, coupled with silence.

Our drive back to Maine brought quiet discussions about what took place and moments of laughter about past times with Scott. The laughter seemed to help with the seemingly never-ending question, “Why?” — though it has no answer.

Life is short

My mind could not let go of how abruptly life can be taken, with no allowances to attend last minute items or making sure everything is in place for loved ones.

Several years back, we had a distributor that was shot and robbed while on his route. Fortunately, he survived the shooting, but had a very long road toward recovery. During his recovery, distributors from across the country sent money to help with the financial strain. In the blink of an eye, his life changed.

As distributors, we generally go throughout our day having fun and giving little thought to the fact that we can become a target for criminals. We need to be mindful of the large amount of cash that is readily available at the end of many days in the first step to protection. What steps do you already have in place for protection and security of hard and cash assets?

Have you ever thought about “What would I do if a robbery was attempted on my business?” Pretend it’s late on the drive home and someone you don’t recognize is flagging you down — what would you do? (First off, in any situation that doesn’t seem right, call someone — anyone — and have the phone to your ear explaining what is going on and keep them there. Criminals are less likely to try something knowing that others are aware.)

Bad news, like the crash or robbery, should make you stop and take a solid look at your portfolio and ask, “If I were not here tomorrow, do all of my insurance policies cover debt owed and leave loved ones with financial security?” The loss of a loved one is hard enough to endure, should they have to be concerned about mounting debt and how to pay for it? Even distributors who don’t have spouses or significant others that will be left to handle things in such a tragedy should remember that someone will have to take care of your affairs.

Take an evening and look over your insurance policies and coverage amounts. As a successful business grows, so should having adequate coverage. Jot down on paper items that you would not want to leave unattended for others to finish if you were unable.

Being self-employed requires an enormous amount of time and dedication which can consume a week before you realize it has passed. Be sure to allow ample time to spend with loved ones enjoying life and what you have.

A fellow racer recalled how Scott ended their last conversation: Scott slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hey man, go hug your kids — you never know!”

Joe Poulin is a Mac Tools distributor based in Gray, Maine. Send feedback for Joe care of [email protected].

Sponsored Recommendations

Garage Tip: The Value of System Solutions

Learn why inspecting related parts when repairing your vehicle can save you time and money. Avoid future failures and ensure satisfaction! Click to watch now.

Access the Best Learning Resource for Professional Mechanics

Get hands-on tips, updated repair instructions, mounting videos, failure diagnosis, and best practices for professional mechanics. Click to access essential technical info to ...

From the Basics to Innovations - Transmission Technical Training Videos

Explore Schaeffler's portfolio of transmission technical trainings for the LuK brand. Tailored for all skill levels, our modules cover basics to innovations. Click to learn more...

Clutch Release Problems - Diagnosis & Failure Analysis

Explore common clutch release problems and their causes, from hydraulic issues to mechanical faults. Understand diagnostics and solutions for optimal clutch performance.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!