Richard Gregory “Greg” Weld, a participant in the 1970 Indianapolis 500, 1967 USAC National Sprint Car champion and founder of the hugely successful Weld Wheels, died unexpectedly Aug. 4 in Kansas City, Mo. He was 64.
The barrel-chested and always cheerful Weld was only 21 when he burst on the USAC scene in 1965. He almost won the Sprint title the first year, leading in points for a good portion of the season and losing out in the final race by the narrowest of margins to then-rising star Johnny Rutherford.
Weld had passed his rookie test at Indianapolis in 1965, but in spite of coming close several times, his only “500” start came in 1970 when he was teammate to the late Art Pollard on a Grant King entry. His car lasted only 12 laps due to piston failure, and he was credited with 32nd place.
Weld was the last person ever to drive a Novi at Indianapolis, a minor wall contact after two incomplete qualifying attempts coming on the final day of time trials in 1966.
By the time he won the 1967 USAC Sprint title at the age of 23, Weld had already entered the business world by creating, in a small garage along with his father, the beginnings of Weld Wheels.
In 1969, the next-to-last year in which the USAC National Championship circuit was to include selected 100-mile dirt track races, Weld drove an experimental Plymouth-powered car to four straight poles at Springfield, Du Quoin, the Hoosier 100 and Sacramento.
With his thriving business taking up more and more of his time, he closed his driving career at age 30 with a fourth-place finish in the 1974 USAC Silver Crown series. His final USAC sprint car appearance – he won 21 career features – came two nights before the 1974 Indianapolis 500, the occasion on which A.J. Foyt famously won both ends of a twin 50-mile classic on the dirt mile at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Weld finished a close second to Foyt in the "nightcap.”
Weld had few peers on a dirt track, his spectacular broad sliding through a turn being something to behold.
Tentative arrangements call for services to take place at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 8 at the Kansas City Baptist Temple.