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CART: Tony Bettenhausen dies in plane crash returning from CART Spring Training

14 February 2000

By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
NEW ORLEANS, LA: Tony Lee Bettenhausen, a CART racing team owner and former race driver, was killed in a plane crash Monday. Bettenhausen was 48 years old. His wife, Shirley, also died in the crash, along with two Indiana businessmen.

The two Indiana businessmen were identified as Russ Roberts and Larry Rangel.

The plane was en route from Tri-City Airport in Blountville, Tennessee to Indianapolis. The group was returning to Indiana from Homestead, Florida where Bettenhausen's racing team had participated in CART's "spring training". The crash occurred in Kentucky.

Bettenhausen was a veteran of 11 Indianapolis 500s. He started a total of 103 Indy Car races in his career. His best finish was second place. Bettenhausen was voted rookie of the year in the 1979 United States Auto Club (USAC) racing season. He became a CART car-owner in 1988.

``Tony was always a gentleman,'' said Dick Jordan, director of public relations for USAC. ``We certainly will miss him, as will everybody in the racing community.''

Bettenhausen raced in the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit briefly in 1974. His father, Tony Sr., was also an Indy Car star. Tony Sr. was killed during practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1961.

``The tragic loss of Tony and Shirley leaves a tremendous void in the racing fraternity,'' said Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Bettenhausen had two brothers also involved in racing. Gary Bettenhausen is an Indy Car veteran with a total of 21 Indy 500 starts. Merle Bettenhausen lost his right arm in a racing accident at Michigan in 1972.

The Bettenhausens are survived by two daughters, Bryn, 18, and Taryn, 13.