Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Midget, Sprint & Indy Star" Gary Bettenhausen Dies - March 16, 2014

November 18, 1941 - March 16, 2014
Gary Bettenhausen
Born in Blue Island, Illinois, USA.
Bettenhausen's father was Indianapolis 500 and sprint car legend Tony Bettenhausen. His brother was former CART driver and team owner Tony. Another brother, Merle, was injured in a fiery crash.

Bettenhausen began as a midget car driver. He finished third in the midget car national points in 1967. He won the first leg of the Astro Grand Prix in 1969, which was held in the Astrodome. He won the 1967 and 1970 Turkey Night Grand Prix, the 1972 Astro Grand Prix, and the 1976 Hut Hundred, on his way to a total of 27 career wins in USAC midget car competition.

Bettenhausen won the 1969 and 1971 sprint car championships. He won the 1980 and 1983 USAC Dirt Track champions in a Silver Crown car. A crash at a Championship Dirt Car race in Syracuse, New York on July 2, 1974 crushed his left arm and left it paralyzed. He regained enough mobility to drive but never fully recovered from the injury.

Bettenhausen competed in Champ/Indy style cars from the mid-1960s until 1996. During this time he won six USAC Indy Car races. He made 21 starts in the Indianapolis 500, with his best finish in 1980 when he finished third after starting 32nd in the 33-car field.

In the 1972 Indianapolis 500, Bettenhausen led 138 laps, but suffered a blown engine with only 24 laps remaining, and dropped out to finish 14th.

Bettenhsusen competed in eight career NASCAR Winston Cup events. He had four Top 10 finishes. His highest career finish was a fourth-place finish at the 1974 Motor State 360 at the Michigan International Speedway.

Bettenhsusen was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998.

Bettenhausen died on March 16, 2014 in Monrovia, Indiana.

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