CHAMPCAR/CART: Car Owner Tony Bettenhausen Dies in Plane Crash

LEESBURG, Ky. (Monday Feb. 14, 2000) - CART FedEx ex-driver and car owner Tony Bettenhausen Jr., youngest son in a famous auto racing family, died in a plane crash Monday on a Kentucky farm. Bettenhausen's wife, Shirley, Russ Roberts, a partner...

LEESBURG, Ky. (Monday Feb. 14, 2000) - CART FedEx ex-driver and car owner Tony Bettenhausen Jr., youngest son in a famous auto racing family, died in a plane crash Monday on a Kentucky farm.

Bettenhausen's wife, Shirley, Russ Roberts, a partner in Bettenhausen Racing, and Larry Rangel, and Indiana businessman also were killed when the plane crashed about noon on a farm some 30 miles from Lexington, said Brad Stevens, an executive with Bettenhausen Racing in Indianapolis.

The plane took off from Tri-City Airport in Blountville, Tenn., en route to Indianapolis, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Bettenhausen had 11 starts in the Indianapolis 500. In 1981 he finished seventh in his first start at the Brickyard. Bettenhausen's father raced at the Indianapolis 500 for 14 years from 1946-60 and was killed in practice in 1961.

Tony Bettenhausen Jr. started racing stock cars in 1969, joined the Winston Cup circuit in 1974 and competed in the USAC stock and midget divisions in 1975-76. He became the fourth Bettenhausen to start an Indy car race in his debut at Texas in 1979 and took his legacy to Indianapolis the next year.

He started his own team in 1986 and made his sixth Indy 500 start that year, finishing 28th. In 1988, he bought a CART team in 1988 and made his last start at the Indy 500 in 1993.

The oldest son in the family, Gary, 20 at the time of his father's death, began racing stock cars four years later, made his Indy car debut at Phoenix in 1966 and the first of 21 starts at Indianapolis in 1968.

Merle, the middle son, drove champ cars, dirt cars, sprints and midgets before coming to Indianapolis in 1972. He passed his rookie test that year but never made a qualification attempt and later lost an arm in a crash at Michigan, ending his racing career.

--Jack Durbin, Motorsport.com

ESPN and Star News contributed to this report

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Bettenhausen