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Melvin E. "Tony" Bettenhausen (September 12, 1916 Tinley Park, Illinois – May 12, 1961 Indianapolis, Indiana) was an American racing driver, who won the National Championship in 1951 and 1958.

Bettenhausen was nicknamed the "Tinley Park Express" in honor of his hometown. [1] He was nicknamed "Tunney" after heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. "Tunney" later became "Tony." [2]

Bettenhausen was part of the midget car "Chicago Gang" with Emil Andres, Cowboy O'Rourke, Paul Russo, Jimmy Snyder, and Wally Zale. [3] They toured tracks in the Midwest and East Coast of the United States.

Contents

Racing career

Midget cars

He 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.

He won the 1959 Turkey Night Grand Prix, and the Hut Hundred in 1955 and 1956.

Indy cars

He 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. [2] 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. [2]

He prearranged to co-drive with Chicago Gang friend Paul Russo in the 1955 Indianapolis 500. They finished second. [3]

In 1958 he became the only driver to win the national championship without a win. [2] He was assured the title with a second place finish at Phoenix. He finished second in the national championship to Rodger Ward in 1959.

Bettenhausen was killed in 1961 in a crash at Indianapolis while testing a car for Paul Russo.

Indy 500 results

Year Car Start Qual Rank Finish Laps Led Retired
1946 42 26 123.094 13 20 47 0 Rod
1947 29 25 120.980 17 18 79 0 Timing gear
1948 6 22 126.396 10 14 167 0 Clutch
1950 14 8 130.947 16 31 30 0 Wheel bearing
1951 5 9 131.950 30 9 178 0 Spun T4
1952 27 30 135.384 17 24 93 0 Stalled
1953 98 6 136.024 20 9 196 0 Crash T3
1954 10 21 138.275 19 29 105 0 Bearing
1955 10 2 139.985 13 2 200 0 Running
1956 99 5 144.602 5 22 160 0 Crash T1
1957 27 22 142.439 9 15 195 0 Flagged
1958 33 9 143.919 10 4 200 24 Running
1959 1 15 142.721 18 4 200 0 Running
1960 2 18 145.214 9 23 125 0 Rod
Totals 1975 24
Starts 14
Poles 0
Front Row 1
Wins 0
Top 5 3
Top 10 5
Retired 10

World Championship career summary

The Indianapolis 500 was part of the FIA World Championship from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indy during those years were credited with World Championship points and participation. Tony Bettenhausen participated in 11 World Championship races. He started on the pole 0 times, won 0 races, set 1 fastest lap, and finished on the podium once. He accumulated a total of 11 championship points.

Racing family

Bettenhausen was the father of Gary Bettenhausen, Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. and Merle Bettenhausen.

Awards

References

  1. ^ Biography at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame
  2. ^ a b c d Biography at the International Motorsport Hall of Fame
  3. ^ a b Biography for Paul Russo at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame







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