Tony Bettenhausen Jr.

Last updated
Tony Bettenhausen Jr.
Born(1951-10-30)October 30, 1951
Joliet, Illinois
DiedFebruary 14, 2000(2000-02-14) (aged 48)
Harrison County, Kentucky
Cause of deathPlane crash
Champ Car career
113 races run over 14 years
Years active 19791993
Best finish6th (1981)
First race 1979 Coors 200 (Milwaukee)
Last race 1993 Indianapolis 500 (Indianapolis)
WinsPodiums Poles
NASCAR Cup Series career
33 races run over 3 years
Best finish20th (1974)
First race 1973 Atlanta 500 (Atlanta)
Last race 1982 Champion Spark Plug 400 (Michigan)
WinsTop tens Poles

Tony Lee Bettenhausen Jr. [1] (October 30, 1951 – February 14, 2000) was a Champ Car team owner and driver who died in a 2000 plane crash. He was the son of former 14-time Indianapolis 500 competitor Tony Bettenhausen and the brother of 21-time Indy racer Gary Bettenhausen. The family holds the dubious distinction of the most combined starts in the famous race without a victory. Another brother, Merle Bettenhausen, was maimed in his only Indy Car start.



As a driver, he started 11 Indianapolis 500 races, scoring a best finish of 7th his rookie year in the 1981 race. He took his trademark No. 16 into team ownership in 1985, initially using March and Lola chassis, then purchasing year-old Penske chassis and then entering and qualifying two new Penskes for the 1993 race. One, number 76, was driven by himself, the other by former Formula One driver Stefan Johansson. A number of successful drivers passed through Bettenhausen's Alumax car, including Johansson for the first few years as well as three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves and former IndyCar rookie of the year Patrick Carpentier.

Bettenhausen also competed in 33 NASCAR Winston Cup Series events in his career, most coming in 1974 when he scored a career best 7th-place effort at Richmond International Raceway.

A difficult 1999 plagued by a lack of sponsorship and a series of pay-drivers saw the team take on a new look in 2000 with the hiring of Michel Jourdain Jr. and his Herdez sponsorship.


Bettenhausen died in a light plane crash en route from Indianapolis to Homestead, Florida that went down in Harrison County, Kentucky. Bettenhausen's wife Shirley, the daughter of former Indianapolis racing star Jim McElreath, as well as business associates Russ Roberts and Larry Rangel were also killed. His legacy of the team lived on under the ownership of former Pacific Racing F1 team owner Keith Wiggins and was renamed Herdez Competition in 2001, with the No. 16 replaced by Herdez's preference for the No. 55 early in 2002. The team has subsequently gone through further changes in ownership, was once Paul Stoddart's Minardi Team USA, and became Wiggins' HVM Racing competing in the IndyCar Series until the end of the 2012 season. On 11 November, 2015 the team was listed as up for auction officially listing the team as defunct. [2]

He is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. [3]

Motorsports career results


(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)

Winston Cup Series

Daytona 500
1974 Gordon Van Liew Chevrolet 2633

American Open-Wheel racing results

PPG Indycar Series

Indianapolis 500

1979 Eagle Offy Failed to Qualify
1981 McLaren Cosworth 16th7th
1982 March 27th26th
1983 9th17th
1984 17th26th
1985 Lola 29th29th
1986 March 18th28th
1987 27th10th
1988 Lola 24th33rd
1989 Failed to Qualify
1990 Buick 13th26th
1991 Penske Chevrolet 20th9th
1992 Failed to Qualify
1993 22nd20th

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  1. 1980 Indianapolis 500 Daily track Report
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-09. Retrieved 2015-11-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Indianapolis Auto greats" (PDF). Celebrating Automotive Heritage at Crown Hill Cemetery. Crown Hill Cemetery. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
  4. "Tony Bettenhausen Jr – 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  5. "Tony Bettenhausen Jr – 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  6. "Tony Bettenhausen Jr – 1982 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved January 23, 2015.