CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports Face Lost but will continue

Team Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports Statement: It is with the greatest sorrow that Bettenhausen Motorsports and Herdez/Viva Mexico announce the loss of team owners Tony Bettenhausen and Russ Roberts in a private plane crash yesterday near...

Team Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports Statement:

It is with the greatest sorrow that Bettenhausen Motorsports and Herdez/Viva Mexico announce the loss of team owners Tony Bettenhausen and Russ Roberts in a private plane crash yesterday near Leesburg, Kentucky. Accompanying Tony and Russ on the flight was Tony's wife Shirley and a longtime friend of Tony, Russ and Shirley, Larry Rangel.

Bettenhausen was piloting his twin engine Beech Baron aircraft from Tennessee's Tri-City Airport in Blountville to Eagle Creek Airport near Tony's home in Indianapolis when the accident occurred at approximately 11:45 am yesterday. Details of the crash are still pending FAA and NTSB investigations. Tony was a veteran pilot and was an instrument rated pilot flying on a pre-determined flight plan originating from the Miami, Florida area after CART's Spring Training open test.

"All of the team and Bettenhausen family is in a great state of shock," Russ Breeden, Tony and Russ's longtime team partner and friend said. "This team was an extension of Tony and Shirley's family and we are all trying to deal with the tragic loss of our friends and family."

"Bettenhausen Motorsports, as a team, will carry on in the wake of this tremendous loss," added Jack Rodgers, another of Tony and Russ' longtime business partners and one of Tony's original supporters in Champ Car racing. "Tony's love for the sport has driven us all to make Bettenhausen Motorsports what it is today and we plan to continue with Tony's dream to be a championship contender. His passion lives on in all of us and we hope to honor his and Russ' memory by continuing his work with the team."

Both Jack Rodgers and Russ Breeden have been involved in Bettenhausen Motorsports from its inception and plan to continue the team's operations. Bettenhausen Motorsports recently teamed with Herdez/Viva Mexico to field a FedEx Championship Series car for Michel Jourdain Jr. for the 2000 season and the team plans to go forward with its plans including its pre-season testing to commence next week at Sebring International Raceway.

Jack Rodgers and Wayne Hillis, both Indianapolis businessmen, were instrumental in getting Tony his first Champ Car drive in 1981 under the H&R Racing banner. Since the late 1970's, Jack has been a friend and partner to Tony and his family. Russ Breeden, an Indiana native and businessman, joined Tony's racing effort in 1985 and has been with him since.

In 1985, Tony, Russ Roberts, Jack and Russ Breeden formed Bettenhausen Motorsports with the intent of building the team, and their dream, into what it is today.

The youngest son of Melvin Eugene "Tony" Bettenhausen, Tony Lee Bettenhausen was born in Chicago on October 30, 1951. Tony began racing late-model stock cars in 1969 and placed second in the 1972 NASCAR Sportsman Series. In 1974, he moved to the Winston Cup circuit, starting in all of the major events, including the Daytona 500.

Bettenhausen made his Champ car debut driving in five USAC events, and was named Rookie of the Year in 1980. In 1981, he was named CART Most Improved Driver, with five top-10 finishes in 10 starts. He finished second that year at the inaugural Michigan 500 and seventh in his first Indy 500. He finished fifth a year later at Pocono and started a career-high 13 events in 1983.

Bettenhausen started his own team in 1986 with funding from a group of friends. He made his sixth Indy 500 start that year, finishing 28th. He stepped up in 1988 and purchased a CART franchise. Bettenhausen started 12 races that season, with a best finish of fourth at Michigan. Tony's last start came in 1993 at Indianapolis and has since dedicated himself to building his race team into a championship contender.

Bettenhausen Motorsports has fielded 13 different drivers making 179 starts for the team. Drivers Stefan Johansson (1992-96) and Patrick Carpentier (1997) established a number of team mark, including: best finish (second place by Carpentier at Gateway in 1997, later matched by Helio Castro-Neves at Milwaukee in 1998); best starting position (third at Portland by Johansson in 1993 and third at Nazareth by Carpentier in 1997); most laps lead in a race (25 by Carpentier at Gateway in 1997); most races lead in a season (three by Castro-Neves in 1998); best finish in the series standings (11th by Johannson in 1994) and most points scored in a season (60 by Johansson in 1995). Johansson and Carpentier also captured CART's prestigious Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award in 1992 and 1997, respectively.

Tony is survived by his mother, Val, brothers Gary and Merle, sister, Sue, daughters, Bryn and Taryn. Shirley Bettenhausen is survived by her daughters and mother, Shirley and father, former Champ car driver Jim McElreath.

Russ Roberts, an Indiana native and businessman, joined Jack in Tony's race effort in the early 1980's and has been an integral part of the team's operations since. Russ is survived by his parents, brother and longtime friend MaryAnn Urbancic.

Larry Rangel, owner of La Margarita Mexican Restaurant in Indianapolis, was a longtime friend of the Bettenhausen family and race team. Larry, 48, is survived by his wife Lori, seven children, mother and father, Angel and Maria Rangel of Guanajuato, Mexico and his five brothers and three sisters.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Tony Bettenhausen , Michel Jourdain