October’s a dark month for the racing world. The recent losses of Sean Edwards just a week ago and Maria de Villota (October 11) join a laundry list of tragedies that have all come in this month.
Dan Wheldon (October 16, 2011), Greg Moore (October 31, 1999) and MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli (October 23, 2011) are three of the other high profile names lost; the 2011 stretch of days also claimed Michael Wanser, 6-year-old son of Target Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Barry Wanser and off-road racer Rick Huseman.
And 10 years ago today is another somber anniversary, for yet another driver whose promising career was cut short before it ever fully blossomed.
Tony Renna had been signed by Ganassi for the 2004 season to replace Tomas Scheckter, and be teammate to then-first-time champion Scott Dixon. The two had been Indy Lights teammates in 2000 at Bruce McCaw’s PacWest Racing team.
Ganassi was poised for the future with Renna, then 26, and Dixon, then 23, in the seats of the team’s Panoz-Toyotas. But a testing accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at Turn 3 claimed Renna’s life, before he ever had the chance to race for the team.
Renna had starred in substitute roles for Kelley Racing in place of Al Unser Jr. in 2002, and had a third car added for the second half of that season and at the 2003 Indianapolis 500, where he finished seventh. He’d raced in Indy Lights for three seasons (1998 to 2000) prior to that.
“Everyone who worked with him loved him,” said Chris Simmons, in a piece written by the Indianapolis Star’s Phillip B. Wilson. Simmons was another former teammate of Renna’s who has worked with Ganassi as engineer on Dario Franchitti’s No. 10 car since the Scot’s return to IndyCar racing from NASCAR.
Renna’s memory still lives with an annual award presented in his honor, the Tony Renna Rising Star Award, which was awarded to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing sophomore Josef Newgarden at Sunday night’s IndyCar championship banquet.
And just this past weekend at the American Le Mans Series finale at Petit Le Mans, Patrick Long paid tribute to Renna with a Troy Lee-designed helmet.
— Troy Lee Designs (@TroyLeeDesigns) October 16, 2013
There’s been a handful of tweets remembering the DeLand, Fla. driver today as well. A selection of those are below.
— Dario Franchitti (@dariofranchitti) October 22, 2013
Lets not forget #tonyrenna today…RIP
— Darren Hickey (@dhickey66) October 22, 2013
Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Tony Renna has passed. He was such a promising talent.
— Jade Gurss (@JadeGurss) October 22, 2013