Gary Bettenhausen was one of the most successful Sprint Car and Midget car racers in USAC (United States Auto Club) history. Gary had family ties in auto racing as the son of Indianapolis 500 and Sprint Car legend, Tony Bettenhausen, who died in a Indianapolis 500 practice crash in 1961.
A native of Illinois, Bettenhausen started racing in Midget cars with quick success that includes victories in the 1967 & 1970 Turkey Night Grand Prix (held at Ascot (CA) Park during those years) and the 1976 Hut Hundred at Terre Haute (IN) Action Track. He ventured into Sprint Car competition winning the 1969 and 1971 USAC National championship, as well as the 1980 and 1983 USAC Silver Crown championship.
Bettenhausen also competed in Champ/Indy cars from the mid-1960s to 1996 where he was a six-time winner. He successfully qualified for the Indianapolis 500 twenty-one times between 1968-1993 with a best finish of third in the 1980 event where he started in position 32 of 33. Bettenhausen also made 8 starts in NASCAR Cup Series competition where he finished in the top 10 in four of those starts with a best finish of fourth at Michigan Speedway in 1974.
Gary Bettenhausen was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. He passed away this week in 2014 at the age of 72.
(Photo by Howie Hodge) – Bettenhausen at Reading Fairgrounds Speedway in 1973.