"It was long ago and it far far away And things were so much better than they are today!" Greg Weld gone. I only found out today. Hadn't seen Greg for a year or so and he was only eight years older than myself; a typical race car driver; five feet tall with a ten-foot ego. Remember the White Spoke Baja wheels? Those were Greg's. The "Star Wire"? Those were Greg's. Walked into the main store on Truman Road one day and there was this Southern guy there, chatting with Greg and Greg made the introduction. I sort of went into "OhmigawdJesusChristOhFuckMeIsThisForReal?" mode as I shook hands with Junior Johnson who was a good freind of Greg's deceased Daddy, Taylor Weld. See, Taylor built double-centre wheels for Junior for use on and "off" the track. Heh, heh. I come by Blackhat quite fairly! Regulars in the store were such as Gordon Johncock, the Arfons, Dave Wahl, Connie Kalitta, Richard Petty and of course, Shirley. Greg still had one of the Indy cars which had been re-engined with a built-up Chevy 350 and he told me that I dould drive it if I'd pay for tires. Being a young fool, I bought at wholesale a set of B.F.Goodrich Radial T/As and mounted and balanced them myself and wiggled into the car. See, you don't ride in an Indy car; you WEAR it! Greg told me to not exceed 6,000 RPMs on the clock so when I ran it from Truman Road and Paseo to Blue Springs and back, I held it at 5,800. Got no clue how fast I was going (Race cars lack speedometers!) but I passed everyone on the road and when I got back they put the car right into the trailer and got it out of there before the cops showed up! About Greg: "Greg Weld, KC's wheel man, dies at 64 By JIM PEDLEY The Kansas City Star The passing of Greg Weld, a Kansas City-born driver and auto-racing entrepreneur who died of a heart attack Monday at age 64, will make the mood much more somber this week at the famed Knoxville Nationals in Iowa. That's according to Bob Baker, executive director of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, whose phone has been constantly ringing and whose office has been besieged during this hectic racing week. On Monday, Baker said only a few of the callers and visitors wanted to talk racing. The majority wanted to talk about a person. "They are talking about Greg," Baker said. The Knoxville Nationals is a sprint-car racing event, often described as the Super Bowl of sprint-car racing, where more than 100 drivers compete for the top spot. It's an event Greg Weld won in 1963. Fans and competitors journeying to Knoxville this week will no doubt be talking about Weld because of the major role he played in the sport. Weld started his career in racing as a driver. He drove sprint cars in the 1960s in the U.S. Auto Club series. Weld won 21 USAC sprint-car races and also was the USAC sprint-car champion in 1967. He also drove in the Champ Car series, which was sanctioned by USAC at the time, in the 1960s and '70s. He made one start in the Indianapolis 500, qualifying 28th and finishing 32nd in 1970. "He was as good as they get," said Cecil Taylor, longtime Weld friend and former crew member for A.J. Foyt. "Foyt, everybody had the greatest regard for him. He looked like Joe College when you met him, but when he got on the track, he was a driver." Weld's family was involved in racing, and Greg drove at the top Kansas City-area tracks of the day â€” Olympic, Riverside and Lakeside. "He was pretty darn good," said Marc Olson, the current owner of Lakeside Speedway. "The family was good. You could see it (driving talent) ran in the family." Baker, also from Kansas City, said when Weld would show up to race in Kansas City that "it was huge." It was huge, also, when Weld would head up to the dirt-racing mecca of Knoxville. "When he came to Knoxville, he was a Kansas City hot shoe who came to take the money out of Knoxville," Baker said. "And he did that a lot." It was during his days as a driver that Weld became a businessman. The company he founded in 1967 with $2,300 in winnings, Weld Wheel Industries, would come to produce racing wheels that became the industry's gold standard. According to Baker, Weld got into that business out of necessity. Weld had to slow his driving career when he couldn't get wheels for his car. His engineer father told him he should build his own wheels. Weld did just that. Soon, everybody wanted Weld wheels on their cars. Two-time Sprint Cup series champion Tony Stewart demanded Weld wheels three years ago, when Baker was working for Weld. Baker said that Stewart broke a wheel during a race. He got out of his car and told crew chief Greg Zipadelli to get better wheels. "Zipadelli called Taylor (Weld, who was working at the company) an hour later," Baker said. Not long after that, a couple of trucks loaded with Weld wheels were on their way to Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing team. Baker reports that Stewart could not have been happier. Shortly thereafter, however, Weld Wheels got out of the business of making wheels for NASCAR. "Couldn't make it profitable," Baker said. The timing of Weld's passing was not lost on those who knew him. Taylor, who used to attend the Knoxville Nationals with Weld and sit in his suite, kind of chuckled about that timing. "Yeah, kind of ironic, isn't it?" Taylor said." +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ "He was equal parts bad ass, good guy and savvy businessman. But it's hard to think of Greg Weld without first visualizing his jaw-dropping prowess on a dirt track, throwing a sprinter or a champ car into the cushion just inches away from the guardrail with the throttle buried and the engine screaming. Weld, who died Monday of cancer at age 64, probably doesn't ring a bell with anyone under 50, because he quit driving in the early 1970s to concentrate on his wheel empire. Since he only qualified for one Indianapolis 500, he also wouldn't rank as a hero except for every guy who ever raced him or watched him perform in USAC from 1965-'74. The mark of a real racer is how he was measured by his competition and Greg's former rivals still sound awestruck 40 years later. "The guy was magic on dirt," said Bill Vukovich, who began his vaunted USAC career around the same time as Weld.. "He was a damn good racer and plenty brave," said Gary Bettenhausen, four-time USAC champion. "I admired him so much as a race driver it'shard to express," said Billy Engelhart, who battled Weld in sprints and dirt cars. "I feel he was one of the best dirt car drivers ever." Fresh from tearing up IMCA circuits, Weld came to USAC in '65 as a baby-faced 21-year-old with that "can't miss" tag. He captured the prestigious sprint title in 1967 and, by all rights, should have become a star at Indianapolis. But Greg never seemed as comfortable on pavement as he was dirt and he never drove anything remotely resembling top-line equipment. He crashed two cars in the final hour of time trials in 1966 - including the last gasp of the Novi. Weld finally made the show in 1970 as Art Pollard's teammate and recalled a few years ago: "Me and Indy just didn't hit it off, but I was always glad I finally got in the show at least once." A winner 21 times in sprinters, Weld never had the good fortune to win a champ dirt car race despite his talent and breathtaking style. Nothing illustrates his ability to dazzle like 1969 when he captured four consecutive pole positions at Springfield, DuQuoin, Indianapolis and Sacramento. Without question, his finest moment came at the Indiana State Fairgrounds' mile in qualifying for the Hoosier Hundred in September of 1969. Longtime friend and former driver, Steve Long, who was working for Grant King's team at the time, picks up the story. "We drew last to qualify and that's usually never good because the track goes away," said Long. "Greg came rolling a double diamond tire and told me to put it on the right rear. "He asked me if I wanted to be a driver some day and I told him yes. So he said go down to the first turn and you'll learn something." At that time, the Hoosier Hundred was the second most prestigious race in USAC as it paid a huge purse and drew the likes of Andretti, Foyt and the Unsers. By the time Greg went out to qualify, the track had deteriorated so badly that the previous 10 cars had missed the show. He saw his beloved cushion had almost vanished so the only choice dirt for him to grab with his right rear tire was about a foot from the guardrail. Hence, his tire selection. And everybody in the pits stopped to watch because they knew it was going to be spectacularly good or violent. "I figured he was going out of the joint," said Bettenhausen. "It was insane," said Vuky, shaking his head at the memory. On his first lap, Weld bicycled so violently in Turn 1 he nearly tipped over and you could see the bellypan of King's car. Yet it was still the fourth-fastest lap of the day. On his second lap,Greg nailed it and sent a spectacular shower of dirt into the horse barns on his rim riding perfection. He came back into the pits with the pole position. "Greg was so happy because he'd seen Jud Larson do the same thing, and he always wanted to do it because I think Jud was his hero," said Long. Engelhart recalled the reaction at the driver's meeting. "Someone was kidding Al Unser about getting beat for the pole and he said something about Greg using a double diamond tire. Then Mario spoke up and said, â€˜I don't care if he had a triple diamond, I don't think anybody in this room could have done that.' "When Greg walked into the meeting, all the drivers clapped." When USAC took the dirt cars out of the national championship in 1971, Weld Wheels was taking off and driving became less and less a priority for Greg, who finally quit in 1974 after running second to A.J. Foyt at the Fairgrounds in a sprinter. Of course, for all the great memories he left on the track there was nobody nicer off it. Case in point was 2005 when Don Brown passed away here in Indy. A master fabricator, Brown had built a car (the Mechanical Rabbit) in the early '60s that helped launch Weld's career. To honor his fallen friend, Greg flew from Kansas City to spend four hours bench racing at Brown's wake at the Speedway Motel. And, for many of us, that was every bit as impressive as that September day in '69 at the Fairgrounds. Greg fired me four times and I quit five times. I have a need for a set of double-centres and I can make them because Greg taught me how. Hey, Greg! See you on the next racetrack! Love ya, Buddy! And in an odd way, if it were not for Greg, I would not be here today.