Indianapolis 500 regular Gary Bettenhausen dies aged 72

Gary Bettenhausen

Gary Bettenhausen, a 25-time Indianapolis 500 participant and a member of one of US single-seater racing's prominent families, has died in Indiana at the age of 72.

Bettenhausen, son of 1940s and '50s racing great Tony, was a regular at the 500 between 1968 and '94, qualifying for the race on all but five occasions.

He never managed to win, although he made a place for himself in the event's history books by becoming one of the small club of drivers to have set the fastest qualifying time for the race without starting from pole.

In Bettenhausen's case, it happened in 1991, 30 years to the day after his father was killed at the same track. His 224.468mph effort was better than Rick Mears' 224.113mph pole time, but came 24 hours too late.

His brother Tony Jr, who also raced and owned a CART team, observed at the time that "it was typical Bettenhausen luck. High speed. Wrong day."

Bettenhausen's best result at Indy came in 1980, when he raced through the field from 32nd on the grid to finish third, although he led for 138 laps in 1972 before dropping out with an ignition failure.

In addition to his IndyCar exploits, Bettenhausen also dabbled in NASCAR and made eight Winston Cup starts; a dalliance that resulted in four top-10 finishes and a best result of fourth at Michigan in 1974.

Tony Jr was killed in a plane crash in 2000, while another brother, Merle, was badly injured in his only Champ Car start at Michigan in 1972.

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