Tony Bettenhausen

Family tree of Tony Bettenhausen

Motorsport - Auto racing

AmericanBorn Melvin Eugène Bettenhausen

American racing driver

Born on September 12, 1916 in Tinley Park, Illinois , United States

Died on May 12, 1961 in Speedway, Indiana , United States

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Melvin Eugene "Tony" Bettenhausen (September 12, 1916 – May 12, 1961) was an American racing driver known primarily for his open-wheel career. He twice won the National Championship, doing so in 1951 and 1958. He also competed in stock cars, winning under AAA and USAC sanction.
Bettenhausen was nicknamed the "Tinley Park Express" in honor of his hometown. He was nicknamed "Tunney" after heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. "Tunney" later became "Tony."
...   Melvin Eugene "Tony" Bettenhausen (September 12, 1916 – May 12, 1961) was an American racing driver known primarily for his open-wheel career. He twice won the National Championship, doing so in 1951 and 1958. He also competed in stock cars, winning under AAA and USAC sanction.
Bettenhausen was nicknamed the "Tinley Park Express" in honor of his hometown. He was nicknamed "Tunney" after heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. "Tunney" later became "Tony."


Racing career


Midget car career
Bettenhausen was part of the midget car "Chicago Gang" with Emil Andres, Cowboy O'Rourke, Paul Russo, Jimmy Snyder, and Wally Zale. These racers toured tracks in the Midwest and East Coast of the United States.
Bettenhausen 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.
In October 1950, he was involved in a race in Sacramento, California, when his car locked wheels with another racer's car, causing a crash through the guard rail, resulting in fatal injuries to spectator Peter Bernard Stuberak, and injuries to two other spectators.
Bettenhausen won the 1959 Turkey Night Grand Prix, and the Hut Hundred in 1955 and 1956.


Championship car career
Bettenhausen 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.
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.
He prearranged to co-drive with Chicago Gang friend Paul Russo in the 1955 Indianapolis 500. They finished second.
In 1958, Bettenhausen became the first driver to claim the National Championship without a win. He was assured the title with a second-place finish at Phoenix. He finished second in the national championship to Rodger Ward in 1959.


World Drivers' Championship career
The AAA/USAC-sanctioned Indianapolis 500 was included in the FIA World Drivers' Championship from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indianapolis during those years were credited with World Drivers' Championship participation, and were eligible to score WDC points alongside those which they may have scored towards the AAA/USAC National Championship.
Bettenhausen participated in all 11 World Drivers' Championship races held at Indianapolis. He finished in the top three once, and set one fastest leader lap. He scored 11 World Drivers' Championship points.


Death
Bettenhausen was killed in a May 12, 1961 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 (99 m) 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. Bettenhausen died instantly.


Personal life and family
Bettenhausen was the father of Gary Bettenhausen, Tony Bettenhausen Jr. and Merle Bettenhausen. Gary Bettenhausen and Tony Bettenhausen Jr. both raced in the Indianapolis 500 numerous times. Merle Bettenhausen is his sole surviving son as of 2021.


Awards and honors
Bettenhausen has been inducted into the following halls of fame:

Auto Racing Hall of Fame (1968)
National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame (1985)
International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1991)
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1997)
National Sprint Car Hall of Fame (2008)
United States Auto Club (USAC) Hall of Fame (2013)


Motorsports career results


AAA/USAC Championship Car results

1946 table only includes results of the six races run to "championship car" specifications. Points total includes the 71 races run to "big car" specifications.


Indianapolis 500 results


FIA World Drivers' Championship results
(key) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

† 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.


References


External links
Tony Bettenhausen - ChampCarStats.com
Tony Bettenhausen at Find a Grave
Tony Bettenhausen - Motorsport Memorial
Tony Bettenhausen driver statistics at Racing-Reference



Biography from Wikipedia (see original) under licence CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Geographical origins

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