Tony Renna (1976-2003) was an American racing driver who lost his life in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during a practice session with Chip Ganassi Racing team. He was supposed to drive for CGR in the 2004 Indy Racing League season but fatal accident stopped his career. Renna is the last race car driver who lost a life at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Prior to that crash, he recorded seven Indy Car starts with Kelley Racing. Earlier in a career, Renna was racing in the Indy Lights, US F2000 Championship, Barber Dodge Pro Series and British Formula 3 Championship.
Jerry Nadeau and Tony Renna (right) at Donington Park in 1996
Second place in the 1996 Formula Opel Lotus Nations Cup
Born in November 1976, Anthony James 'Tony' Renna started his career in the 1995 British Formula 3 Championship, driving a Dallara-Honda for West Surrey Racing. A year later, his main competition was the Barber Dodge Pro Series, in which he finished in seventh place.
In November 1996, Renna was representing Team USA, together with Jerry Nadeau, in the Formula Opel Lotus Nations Cup at Donington Park. They finished in the second place, behind Germany's Pierre Kaffer and Norman Simon.
Tony Renna scored his only Indy Lights victory in 1998
Three seasons in the Indy Lights series
In 1997, Renna continued to race in the Barber Dodge Pro Series, finishing tenth in the final standings but also started in one race of the US F2000 National Championship. In 1998, Renna made a debut in the Indy Lights series, driving for Mattco Raceworks. He won one race, at Michigan International Speedway, starting from pole. At the end of the season, he was 8th in the points.
In 1999 Indy Lights season, he joined PacWest Lights in five races, scoring a podium in third place at Milwaukee Mile. In 2000, Renna spent a full season with PacWest Lights, scoring three podiums and finishing fifth in the final standings.
Tony Renna made an Indy Car debut in the #7 Chevrolet
Indy Car debut with Kelley Racing in 2002
In 2001, Renna was out of racing for the almost entire season, participating in just one race of the Speedvision World Challenge, driving a BMW M3. In 2002, he made a debut in the Indy Racing League, joining Kelley Racing in the tenth round at Nashville Superspeedway as a replacement for Al Unser Jr., who was in alcohol rehabilitation.
Renna was 10th in his debut in the #7 Dallara-Chevrolet. In the next race, at Michigan International Speedway, he finished fourth, what remained his career-best result. Until the end of the season, after Unser's return, Renna participated in four more races in the #78 Chevrolet, finishing best in the seventh place at Kentucky.
Tony Renna at 2003 Indianapolis 500
Seventh place in the Indianapolis 500 debut
Renna had no full-time seat in 2003 and he returned to the race track at Indianapolis 500 only. In his debut at the greatest American race, Renna was driving the #32 Dallara-Toyota for Kelley Racing. He was 8th on the starting grid, ending a race in the seventh place.
Renna finally found a seat in the Indy Racing League for 2004, signing for Chip Ganassi Racing to drive alongside reigning champion Scott Dixon.
Tony Renna lost a life at the start of his Indy Car career
On his fourth lap, Renna spun out in turn three, at the speed of approximately 218 mph (351 km/h). The car went airborne and crashed into the catch fence. The car was destroyed and Renna died instantly.
Scott Dixon spent a season in the #1 car but after that, whenever Chip Ganassi Racing's drivers were champions, they were never using the number 1 again.