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Tony Bettenhausen jr

Full Name:
Tony Lee Bettenhausen
30th October 1951
Joliet, Illinois
14th February 2000 (Aged 48)
near Leesburg, Kentucky, aircraft accident
Most recent race (in database):

The youngest son of the Indycar legend of the same name, Tony Bettenhausen Jr was only nine years old when his father was killed testing a friend’s car at Indianapolis. It did not dim his ambition to follow in those illustrious footsteps and he was a staunch supporter of the series during the Champ Car years – both as driver and then team owner.

Stock car racing career

Bettenhausen raced late model stocks from 1969 and finished second in the 1972 sportsman series. With sponsorship from Vita Fresh Orange Juice, Bettenhausen embarked on a stock car racing career in NASCAR’s top division in 1973, completing a near full schedule a year later and finishing seventh in the 1974 Capital City 500 at Richmond.

Switch to open-wheel racing

He decided to race in Indycars in 1979 just as civil war erupted in American open-wheel racing. That was the start of 14 years as a competent also-ran and Bettenhausen soon switched to the rival Champ Car World Series.

His Provimi Veal McLaren M24B-Cosworth finished seventh at Indianapolis and second in the Michigan 500 during 1981. He was just two seconds behind Pancho Carter in the latter race but that would remain his best result throughout his career.

Bettenhausen Motorsports

Although he had been running his own car for a number of seasons, he officially founded Bettenhausen Motorsports in 1986 as owner/driver. Sponsorship from the AMAX (later renamed Alumax) Corporation secured a fuller schedule for 1990. Now approaching his forties, Bettenhausen hired Stefan Johansson in 1992 and podium finishes in Detroit and Vancouver vindicated his decision. Tony Bettenhausen Jr raced for the last time in the 1993 Indy 500.

Unfortunately, like its owner, the team would never win. Johansson finished third again (Vancouver 1993 and Nazareth 1995) and Patrick Carpentier and Hélio Castroneves were second in St Louis 1997 and Milwaukee 1998 respectively. Both Johansson and Carpentier won the Rookie of the Year crown while racing for Bettenhausen.

Aircraft accident

Michel Jourdain Jr brought Herdez sponsorship to the team for 2000 but a month before the season started, Bettenhausen crashed his twin engine light aircraft while returning to Indianapolis from Tennessee. Tony Bettenhausen Jr and his wife Shirley – the daughter of Jim McElreath – were killed in the accident.