Bentley Warren only competed twice in the Indianapolis 500 but we’ll always wonder what might have been if he hadn’t been hurt in 1971.
A star at Oswego in the big-block modifieds in the late ’60s, Warren caught the eye of owner Tassi Vatis and his chief mechanic Bill Finley and they brought the native of Glouchester, Mass. to Indianapolis in 1970. He got bumped on the final day of time trials but immediately impressed everyone by finishing sixth at Langhorne and fourth at Milwaukee.
In 1971, he was badly burned in the IndyCar race at Argentina while battling Lloyd Ruby for third place but recovered in time to qualify 15th for the Indianapolis 500 (pictured) and was moving up before being KO’d by a mechanical failure.
But, just as people were really starting to acknowledge his ability, Warren suffered gruesome injuries in a July sprint-car accident in Dayton. Both legs and feet were broken and they talked of amputating his right foot. He spent three months in the hospital and suddenly he wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
Bentley tried running his own low-buck team in 1972 and ’73 but had no chance and finally qualified again at Indy in 1975. From that point he concentrated on Oswego where he was a six-time champion, in addition to winning the Little 500 when he was 57 years old. He won his first race at Oswego in 1966 and his last one in 2006 at the age of 66.