One astonishing act of valor and sportsmanship sums up the legacy of race car driver Gary Bettenhausen, who died last week at 72.
It happened at the 1971 Indianapolis 500. I was there, with my brother, sitting at the far north end of the main straightaway. We were witnesses.
At about the 400-mile mark of the race, Mike Mosley came roaring out of the No. 4 turn, lost a tire, slammed into the outside retaining wall and spun into the infield grass, striking Mark Donohue's parked car and causing Bobby Unser to lose control.
Bettenhausen, the son of sprint car legend Tony Bettenhausen -- who had lost his life at the Brickyard 10 years earlier -- saw the crack-up as he pulled out of the short chute between the third and fourth turns.
Thinking quickly, he slammed on the brakes while undoing his belts.
Bettenhausen jumped out of his moving car, ran over to Mosley's burning machine, unbuckled the injured driver and dislodged him from the cockpit just as the safety crew was arriving.