Funny car driver explains how safety measures saved him when his car exploded

Posted at 8:20 PM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 04:03:35-04

FIREBIRD RACEWAY — The 49th Annual Ignitor Opener is underway at Firebird Raceway and there's one driver who really epitomizes the name... In an unintended way.

His car blew an engine two years ago and ignited... literally. Six on Your Side explored the amazing systems that kept him safe in a sport where explosions and fire are a fact of life.

Driver Kris Krabill knows what it's like to watch his engine blow, "It ignites and i had a bad fire at high speed so the fire had a lot of oxygen to it. And oh yeah, it was absolutely an explosion."
His car caught fire and burned two years ago at an event in Bakersfield, California. The engine exploded with only a thin firewall to protect him.

"You have a firewall," explains Krabill, "But the fire goes underneath it and behind your back and it definitely gets your attention."

Fortunately, every inch of Krabill was covered in a seven-layer fireproof suit and helmet.

"It protects you pretty well." he says.

And the helmet has a ready supply of air. Krabill explains how it works, "We have a breather bottle connected to the back of the race car with a line off it so it plugs into the helmet and allows air to come in right in front of my face."

But the handle next to his seat is perhaps the most important thing. It activates a fire extinguisher system at the front and back of the engine, that usually does the job, but failed in Bakersfield.

"It just didn't go out and that's sometimes the way it happens." says Krabill.

So he unhooked and squeezed his way out the escape hatch in the roof. Being nimble, something that comes in handy, when you're on fire.

The Ignitor runs through Sunday at Firebird Raceway. Racing is during the daytime with qualifying on Friday. Kids 15 and under are free and everyone gets a free pit pass.