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Tony Renna Obituary

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  • Tony Renna Obituary

    Anthony James “Tony” Renna, an IRL IndyCar Series driver, died Wednesday, October 22, 2003 of injuries suffered in a testing accident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, IN. Renna, who was a resident of Indianapolis, was 26.

    Renna was born November 23, 1976 in Apple Valley, Calif., to Joe and Mary Renna. He began his racing career at age six in his hometown of Orlando, Florida. The Renna family had just moved to Florida from California, and Tony and his family started racing quarter midgets on the local circuit. Renna soon started winning. More than 250 quarter-midget race victories followed, along with two national quarter midget championships. Renna’s racing career continued, leading him into karts, micro-sprints and eventually open-wheel cars in the Skip Barber series.

    Renna attended Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, Florida and graduated in 1995 from Father Lopez High School in Daytona Beach, Florida, but his pursuits outside of the classroom weren’t those of the average high school student. Renna already had established himself as an up-and-coming race car driver, and as a senior at Father Lopez he won the Skip Barber Formula Ford Florida Series title. Winning the title opened new doors for Tony, and he was asked to represent the United States in an open-wheel racing competition in Europe. After his stint in Europe, Renna returned to the United States and in 1998 secured an opportunity to drive in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) training Series, Indy Lights. Renna finished eighth in Indy Lights points in 1998 and in 1999 he signed with PacWest Racing as a development and test driver for the CART Series while also racing an Indy Lights entry. In 2000, he finished fifth in points while his teammate, Scott Dixon, captured the Indy Lights title.

    After the 2000 season, Renna was without a ride but his determination to continue his career in open-wheel racing didn’t waver. He scoured the garages and wrote letters to teams while teaching at a driving school and driving in stock car races on the side. In 2002, after speaking to team owner Tom Kelley, Renna secured a position with Kelley Racing as a test driver and driver coach for IRL Infiniti Pro Series driver Jason Priestley. Late in 2002, Renna made his IRL IndyCar Series debut, substituting for Kelley Racing driver and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. while Unser was in rehabilitation.

    In his IndyCar Series debut, at Nashville, Renna led 35 laps and almost lapped the field. He finished 10th . In his second start, at Michigan, he finished a career best of fourth. Renna was so impressive that sponsorship was secured for him to run the final four races of the IndyCar Series season in a Kelley Racing entry. Renna scored four top-ten finishes and one top-five finish in his six starts in 2002.

    As the 2003 season unfolded Renna remained a member of Kelley Racing with a plan in place to drive in the 87th Indianapolis 500 in May and work as a spotter and test driver for the team. Renna made his debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the No. 32 Cure Autism Now/ HomeMed entry on April 21, 2003 during the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program. He quickly got up to speed for the Indianapolis 500, qualifying in eighth position and finishing the race in seventh place in a superb, composed drive. His talent was noticed, and the young IRL driver had made quite an impression on the seasoned open-wheel paddock.

    In October of this year Renna, got the opportunity of his lifetime when Chip Ganassi, owner of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, called and offered him a driving position alongside 2003 IRL IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, Renna’s longtime friend and former teammate. It was a dream come true for Tony.

    Renna, who would have turned 27 on November 23rd and was marry to Debbie Savini on November 22 of this year, made his debut with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team on Wednesday, October 22 at Indianapolis. Unfortunately, it was a dream cut short by a tragic accident.

    For all who were fortunate enough to know Tony, they knew that his family and racing were his passions. Tony is survived by his fiancée Debbie Savini of Indianapolis; his mother, Mary Renna of Deland, Florida; his father, Joe Renna of Deland, Florida; and his sisters Kathryn Renna, of Deland, Florida and Nicole Renna of New York.

    A memorial celebration of Tony’s life will take place on Monday, October 27, 2003 at 2 pm at St. John’s Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis.

  • #2


    • #3
      Thanks for posting this.

      Some of us aren't that familiar with his history and this helps fill in the gaps.


      • #4
        So many achievements for such a short life...
        "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." - Thomas Jefferson

        RIP, Dan. You will always be one of my heroes.


        • #5
          If you go to the Flanner and Buchanan site you can sign an on line guest book for Tony Renna



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