Tony Renna - driver
October 21, 2003
Tony Renna 1976-2003
Tony Renna was born 11/23/1976 and grew up in Deland, Florida. Renna had been racing for 20 years, starting out in karts and quarter midgets, in which he won an incredible 252 victories. He was a two-time national champion in quarter-midgets. He moved to cars in 1994 and won the Skip Barber Formula Ford series and then moved up to the Barber Dodge Pro Series where he was rookie of the year. He then graduated to Indy Lights where he was once again a frontrunner from 1998-2001. He made his IRL debut in 2002 with Kelley Racing, substituting for Al Unser Jr. He did well, scoring five top-10 finishes, including a fourth place at Michigan. Tony remained as Kelley test driver in 2003.
The car Tony Renna drove in the 2003 Indy 500.
He fortunately got to race in the 2003 Indy 500. He started in 8th and finished 7th, only eight seconds behind the winner Gil de Ferran.
At the end of the 2003 season, a great opportunity arose for Renna. He was picked to join the powerhouse Target Chip Ganassi Indy Racing team which has shown a penchant for picking awesome up-and-coming drivers. "There were lean times but I never considered giving up on racing," said Renna. "I think I've played the patience game pretty well and I'm ready to be in a place like this (Ganassi). There's been some interesting circumstances to get me to this point but I think my time has come."
Tony and the Ganassi team were up late the night of October 21st getting him fitted for the car, which new teammate and 2003 IRL champion Scott Dixon had driven earlier that day to 228 mph. Tony's first job at the new team would be a tire test the next day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The morning dawned cold with gusty winds, the temperature was around 50 degrees - the minimum temperature for the tires. Renna started the session a little past 9 a.m. On his 4th lap, Tony had the car up to 218 mph and possibly up to 225 mph. He apparently spun in turn three, caught some air underneath the chassis and went airborne. The car cleared the four-foot concrete wall and smashed into the catch fence -- snapping posts, scattering parts and killing Renna instantly of massive internal trauma. The Indy Racing League medical team reacted immediately and tried to revive Renna but could never establish a heartbeat. Renna was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Tony Renna died at the age of 26. He had been living in Las Vegas and was engaged to be married in just two more weeks.
"Tony Renna was a rising star in Indy car racing. All of us involved in racing feel a great loss," said Tony George, president of the speedway and the IRL.
[12/19/03 The IRL concluded its investigation into the accident and released the following report.]
The accident review revealed that Renna’s car entered Turn 3 at 227 mph. At a point just past the apex of the turn, the car did a 90-degree spin to the left into the infield grass. The car began to skip through the grass as it traveled sideways, allowing air underneath the car and causing it to lift into the air. While in the air the car spun approximately another 30 degrees to the left.
The car traveled across the track through the air and made contact with the debris fence on the outside retaining wall in Turn 3. IRL officials said it appears that the most significant damage and resulting fatal injuries were caused when the bottom of the car made direct contact with one of the debris fence support posts, which is part of the Speedway’s fence system.
The spectator debris fences at the Speedway worked as designed, and because Renna’s car struck the fence and not the wall, it did not impact the Speedway’s SAFER Barrier.
As the car entered Turn 3, all the data indicated there were no mechanical failures on any of the car’s equipment that are monitored by sensors. However, while the data acquisition systems are comprehensive, there are elements of the car that are unable to be tracked by the systems. Because of this, it is impossible to completely rule out mechanical failure as a cause of the accident.
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