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 front runner 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.
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
"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
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.
Year Car No. Car Laps Start Finish
2003 32 Cure Autism Now 200 8 7
|The car Tony Renna drove
in the 2003 Indy 500
|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
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