Merle is a former American race car driver. The second oldest member of the Bettenhausen racing family, he is the son of Tony Bettenhausen and the brother of Gary Bettenhausen and Tony Bettenhausen, Jr.
Merle’s USAC Champ Car racing career was brief and tragic. Three laps into his first Champ Car race on a paved track, Michigan International Speedway on July 16, 1972, he tangled with Mike Hiss and crashed into the outside wall. The car exploded in flames and Merle tried to climb out while it was still moving. His right arm became trapped between the car and the wall and was torn off.
He currently resides in Indianapolis and worked for Ray Skillman in the retail automobile business. He has a son, Ryan Bettenhausen, and daughter, Tracy Jennings.
Merle in a volunteer at the VA hospital in Indianapolis chatting and helping veterans recover and get their feet under them. If you get a chance to be in Merle’s presence you will find yourself with a smile some funny stories.