Tony Bettenhausen fatal accident at Indy 500 (May 12, 1961) ALL ANGLE & PICS fuarena 16a4c6540
Tony Bettenhausen was killed in 1961 in a crash at Indianapolis while testing a Stearly Motor Freight Special vehicle for Paul Russo. The car smashed into the outside wall of the track and then rolled 325 feet along the barrier. The car came to rest in a grassy plot between the wall and Grandstand A, with the tail of the car on fire. Results showed the accident was caused by an anchor bolt which fell off the front radius rod support, allowing the front axle to twist and misalign the front wheels when the brakes were applied, which drove the car into the wall.
On May 12, 1961, Tony was in high spirits after some fast laps he'd ran two days prior. He called his wife Valerie to make plans for the family to join him in Indy the next day. That afternoon, Tony's friend and fellow racer Paul Russo was complaining about the setup of his racer and Tony offered to test it out. About 5000 spectators saw the No. 24 Stearly Motor Freight Special roar down the main straightaway, plunge into the outside wall of the track, and roll 325 feet along the three-foot-hight barrier snapping metal poles and ripping fencing from its moorings and becoming entangled in yards of steel restraining cable. The car came to rest upside down outside the track in a grassy plot between the wall and Grandstand A, its tail consumed by flame - Tony's last upside-down crash, his 28th, the one he couldn't count.
He was either killed instantly when the car hit the wall or battered between the wall and the rol bar. His coveralls were hardly singed. Observers said the car dipped at the right front wheel just before it hit the outer wall and rolled 100 yards along the top. Tony Bettenhausen was dead when, after several minutes, he was removed form the car, the same car in which Rodger Ward had won the 1959 Indy 500. USAC ruled the accident mechanical trouble. A inexpensive anchor bolt fell off the front radius rod suport, permitting the front axle to twist and misalign the front wheels when the brakes were applied, which forced the car into the wall.
Melvin Eugene "Tony" Bettenhausen (September 12, 1916 – May 12, 1961) was an American racing driver, who won the National Championship in 1951 and 1958.
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. In October, 1950, he was involved in a race in Sacramento, California, when his car locked wheels with another racers car causing a crash through the guard rail, resulting in fatal injuries to spectator Peter Bernard Stuberak, and injuries to two other spectators. He won the 1959 Turkey Night Grand Prix, and the Hut Hundred in 1955 and 1956.
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. 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. He prearranged to co-drive with Chicago Gang friend Paul Russo in the 1955 Indianapolis 500. They finished second. In 1958 he became the first driver to win the national championship without a win. He was assured the title with a second-place finish at Phoenix. He finished second in the national championship to Rodger Ward in 1959.