Sunday, July 16, 2017

Merle Bettenhausen Loses Arm In Fiery Crash - July 16, 1972

July 16, 1972

(Photo; hoosierhistorylive.org)
Born in Tinley Park, Illinois, USA.
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.

Merle began driving Midgets, Sprint Cars and Champ Cars to get more experience before tackling Indy. During the winter of 1969 as he toured Australia and New Zealand under the wing of USAC National Midget Champion Bob Tattersall.

By 1972, Merle believed he was prepared for the challenge of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He passed the mandatory rookie driver's test but did not attempt to qualify. Later that year Merle was involved in a serious racing incident that forever would alter his life. 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 works in the retail automobile business.

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