OCTOBER 23, 2003
America has lost one of its rising stars with the death on Wednesday in testing at Indianapolis of 26-year-old Florida driver Tony Renna. Renna was on his fourth lap of a test for his new team Target Chip Ganassi Racing when reports suggest that the car, which had been driven the previous day by the new IRL Champion Scott Dixon, went sideways going into Turn Three, took off and flew in to the debris fencing and disintegrated. Renna was rushed to Indianapolis Methodist Hospital but was declared dead on arrival. He had been lapping in the 218mph region before the crash.
Renna was only signed by Ganassi three weeks ago and was looking forward to his first chance to race a top level IRL car on a regular basis.
Renna is the first IRL driver to die at Indianapolis since 1996 when Scott Brayton crashed during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 but the accident comes just a few days after Kenny Brack's car flew into the debris fencing at Texas Motor Speedway. Brack survived with serious injuries and, ironically, was transferred to Methodist Hospital the day before Renna's crash.
The fear in IRL circles is that cars becoming airborne could result in a major incident involving spectators, as a major accident could affect motor racing around the globe. There will now be considerable pressure on the IRL to look at its regulations to find ways for this to be avoided.
Although he was only 26 Renna had been racing for 20 years, starting out in karts and quarter midgets, in which he won an incredible 252 victories. He moved to cars in 1994 and won the Skip Barber Formula Ford series and then moved up to the Barber Dodge Pro Series. He then graduated to Indy Lights where he was once again a frontrunner. He made his IRL debut in 2002 with Kelley Racing, substituting for Al Unser Jr and did well but remained as Kelley test driver this year. He did take part in the Indianapolis 500 and finished seventh but was only eight seconds behind the winner Gil de Ferran.
"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.
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