Tony Bettenhausen

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Tony Bettenhausen
Born (1916-09-12)September 12, 1916
Died May 12, 1961(1961-05-12) (aged 44)
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality United States American
Active years 19501960
Teams Kurtis Kraft, Deidt, Kuzma, Epperly, Watson
Races 11
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 1
Career points 11
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 1
First race 1950 Indianapolis 500
Last race 1960 Indianapolis 500

Melvin Eugene "Tony" Bettenhausen[1] (September 12, 1916 Tinley Park, Illinois – May 12, 1961 Indianapolis, Indiana) was an American racing driver, who won the National Championship in 1951 and 1958.

Bettenhausen was nicknamed the "Tinley Park Express" in honor of his hometown.[2] He was nicknamed "Tunney" after heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. "Tunney" later became "Tony."[3]

Bettenhausen was part of the midget car "Chicago Gang" with Emil Andres, Cowboy O'Rourke, Paul Russo, Jimmy Snyder, and Wally Zale.[4] They toured tracks in the Midwest and East Coast of the United States.

Racing career[edit]

Midget cars[edit]

He won the track championship at the Milwaukee Mile in 1942, 1946, and 1947. He was the Chicago Raceway Park champion in 1941, 1942, and 1947.

He won the 1959 Turkey Night Grand Prix, and the Hut Hundred in 1955 and 1956.

Indy cars[edit]

He drove in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1941 and 1946-1961 seasons with 121 starts, including 14 in the Indianapolis 500. He finished in the top ten 74 times, with 21 victories.

He won the National Championship in 1951 after recording eight victories and two second place finishes in fourteen events. He announced his retirement from all racing but the Indianapolis 500 after the season.[3] He decided to return full-time for the 1954 season. He was involved in a midget car wreck in Chicago, suffering head injuries after striking a concrete wall. He was in critical condition for several days.[3]

He prearranged to co-drive with Chicago Gang friend Paul Russo in the 1955 Indianapolis 500. They finished second.[4]

In 1958 he became the first driver to win the national championship without a win.[3] He was assured the title with a second place finish at Phoenix. He finished second in the national championship to Rodger Ward in 1959.

Death[edit]

Bettenhausen was killed in 1961 in a crash at Indianapolis while testing a Stearly Motor Freight Special vehicle for Paul Russo. The car smashed into the outside wall of the track and then rolled 325 feet along the barrier. The car came to rest in a grassy plot between the wall and Grandstand A, with the tail of the car on fire. Results showed the accident was caused by an anchor bolt which fell off the front radius rod support, allowing the front axle to twist and misalign the front wheels when the brakes were applied, which drove the car into the wall.[5]

Indy 500 results[edit]

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]

(key) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 WDC Points
1950 Blue Crown Spark Plug / Moore Kurtis Kraft 2000 Offenhauser L4 GBR
MON
500
5 †
SUI
BEL
FRA
ITA
21st = 1
1951 Mobiloil / Rotary Engineering Deidt Tuffanelli Derrico Offenhauser L4 SUI
500
9
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
ITA
ESP
NC 0
1952 Blue Crown Spark Plug / Earl Slick Deidt Tuffanelli Derrico Offenhauser L4 SUI
500
24
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
NED
ITA
NC 0
1953 J.C. Agajanian Kuzma Offenhauser L4 ARG
500
9 *
NED
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
SUI
ITA
NC 0
1954 Automobile Shippers / Casaroll Kurtis Kraft 4000 Offenhauser L4 ARG
500
15 ‡
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
SUI
ITA
ESP
NC 0
1955 H.A. Chapman Kurtis Kraft 500C Offenhauser L4 ARG
MON
500
2 џ
BEL
NED
GBR
ITA
13th = 3
1956 Belanger Motors Kurtis Kraft 500C Offenhauser L4 ARG
MON
500
22
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
ITA
NC 0
1957 Novi Racing Kurtis Kraft 500F Novi V8 ARG
MON
500
15
FRA
GBR
GER
PES
ITA
NC 0
1958 Jones & Maley Cars Epperly Indy Roadster Offenhauser L4 ARG
MON
NED
500
4
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
POR
ITA
MOR
17th 4
1959 Hoover Motor Express Epperly Indy Roadster Offenhauser L4 MON
500
4
NED
FRA
GBR
GER
POR
ITA
USA
16th 3
1960 Lindsey Hopkins Watson Indy Roadster Offenhauser L4 ARG
MON
500
23
NED
BEL
FRA
GBR
POR
ITA
USA
NC 0
† Indicates shared drive with Joie Chitwood after retiring his own car.
* Indicates shared drive with Chuck Stevenson and Gene Hartley.
‡ Indicates shared drive with Duane Carter, Marshall Teague and Jimmy Jackson after retiring his own car.
џ Indicates shared drive with Paul Russo.

Racing family[edit]

Bettenhausen was the father of Gary Bettenhausen, Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. and Merle Bettenhausen.

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hayhoe, David; Holland, David. "Grand Prix Data Book". London: Haynes Publishing. p. 578. 
  2. ^ Biography at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame
  3. ^ a b c d Tony Bettenhausen biography at the International Motorsport Hall of Fame
  4. ^ a b Biography for Paul Russo at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame
  5. ^ "Indy 500 Deadly Accidents, Tony Bettenhausen Sr.". Retrieved 1 July 2012. 

External links[edit]