IRL driver Renna dies in crash

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS IRL driver Tony Renna was killed in a wreck Wednesday during testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after he lost control at nearly 220 mph, went airborne and crashed into a fence.

The accident ended the promising career of the 26-year-old Renna, who joined the Indy Racing League as a substitute driver and moved up to major auto racing with an impressive performance in the Indianapolis 500.

Renna signed earlier this month with Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, one of the elite IRL teams, and he was making his first track appearance for Ganassi.

''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.

Renna was the first IRL driver to die in a crash since Scott Brayton in 1996 at Indianapolis, and he was the 67th person fatally injured at the track since it opened in 1909. Greg Moore was the last open-wheel driver killed on a track, wrecking in CART's season-ending race at California Speedway in 1999.

Renna was on his fourth lap when his G Force-Toyota crashed as he came out of the third turn. He was testing the same car that IRL series champion Scott Dixon drove the day before at up to 230 mph. Dixon also drives for Ganassi.

''We're mourning the loss of our driver, friend and colleague,'' car owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. ''On behalf of our whole team, we send our sincere condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Tony Renna.''

Ganassi said Renna did not hit anything before he lost control, went airborne, cleared the wall and crashed into the catch fence during testing, which was closed to the public and news media. The team was not sure if something broke in the car.

Renna was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

''Racing is a very close-knit environment,'' speedway spokesman Ron Green said. ''Competitors are close with one another, officials are close with the teams, and certainly, certainly, a great loss was felt.

''Tony was a great young guy. I don't think anyone in the paddock ever had a bad thing to say about Tony.''

Renna drove in the developmental Indy Lights series in 1998-2000 and made his IRL debut last year with Kelley Racing as a substitute when Al Unser Jr. was undergoing treatment for alcoholism. Renna competed in seven races with Kelley and had five top 10 finishes, including a career-best fourth at Michigan.

This year, he finished seventh as a rookie at Indianapolis and was one of only nine drivers on the lead lap, taking the checkered flag about 7.5 seconds behind winner Gil de Ferran.

Renna began racing at age 6, and he won 252 races in mini-sprints, go-karts, micro-sprints and quarter-midgets. He twice was national quarter-midget champion, then was the 1996 rookie of the year in the Barber Dodge Pro Series.

He also raced in the Barber Dodge series in 1997 and the next year joined Indy Lights, then the developmental series for CART.

AP Sports Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.

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