News & Multimedia

Indianapolis 500 Veteran Walther Dies At 65

Charismatic Indianapolis 500 veteran David “Salt” Walther, died Dec. 27 in Trotwood, Ohio. He was 65.

Walther, from Dayton, Ohio, made seven Indianapolis 500 starts from 1972-79, with a best finish of ninth in the rain-shortened race in 1976. But sadly he is probably best remembered for suffering major injuries in a spectacular accident at the start of the 1973 Indianapolis 500.

Walther, whose nickname “Salt” was courtesy of some pun-loving boyhood classmates who were amused by his surname, was aware of racing from his earliest memories. His father, George Walther, was a Dayton industrialist who fielded “500” cars in the 1950s and 60s for Troy Ruttman, Carl Williams, Mike Magill and others, while giving rookie tests to such notables as Johnny Rutherford, Elmer George, and most famously in 1958, five-time World Champion Juan Manual Fangio.

After a career in powerboat racing, young Salt Walther began entering USAC sprint car events in 1968. At the end of 1970, he made his USAC National Championship debut in the Sacramento 100, noteworthy for being the last "full-blown" Championship event taking place on a dirt track. Although he qualified 15th in the 18-car field, he heeded officials’ suggestion that he start last. Walther stayed in that position, eliminated by mechanical trouble after 26 laps.

In spite of finishing 11th in the second half of a twin-100 event at Rafaela, Argentina, in early 1971, officials felt Walther needed more experience before tackling the “500.” He returned in 1972 to Indianapolis, qualifying for one of the 33 starting positions at the very last minute. But his "race" lasted only a matter of yards, as he was obliged to pull off into the Turn 1 grass on the first lap due to magneto failure.

Walther persevered and enjoyed arguably his most successful season in 1972, finishing eighth in the Pocono 500 and sixth in the Ontario 500 to rank 14th in USAC points.

He was hospitalized for several months after his terrible 1973 Indianapolis accident, and he earned considerable respect from the fans and the racing community by returning to the track in 1974 and earning another starting position in the “500.”

In 1975, the Walther team fielded a second car at Indianapolis for Bob Harkey. When Walther encountered mechanical trouble right after the start, Harkey was obliged to come in and hand over his car. Although the combination ended up 10th in the rain-shortened affair, it might well have placed as high as sixth if the decision was made to wait for the first caution period or refueling stop before making the time-consuming driver switch.

Walther had a number of impressive runs during his career, including a 12th-place finish in the 1976 Daytona 500 and a career-best fourth in the 1977 Trenton 200. He was also one of the USAC drivers who traveled to England in 1978, placing seventh at Silverstone and sixth at Brands Hatch on consecutive weekends in early October.

But Walther’s personal life was not without complications. He subsequently disappeared from the racing scene for several years, reappearing, rather surprisingly, at Indianapolis in 1990 when he amazed everyone by earning a temporary starting position only to be "bumped" right as the final gun was sounding.

Walther’s final appearance as a driver came with an unsuccessful qualifying attempt in 1991, although he would continue to pay the occasional visit, bounding with great strides from garage to garage and hospitality suite to hospitality suite, his outward appearance considerably changed but his unmistakable voice and his infectious charm and enthusiasm just as they always were.

No details on arrangements have yet been made available.
 

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Indianapolis 500 Veteran Walther Dies At 65
 
Indianapolis 500 Veteran Walther Dies At 65
Charismatic Indianapolis 500 veteran David “Salt” Walther, died Dec. 27 in Trotwood, Ohio. He was 65.
Read More
Related Media
Kurt Busch Wins the 59th Daytona 500
 
Kurt Busch Wins 59th Daytona 500
Kurt Busch joined the names of A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and more as the few to compete in Indianapolis 500 and win the Daytona 500. Busch only needed to lead one lap on his way to victory Sunday for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series' crown-jewel event.
Read More
Chase Elliott
 
Elliott Wins First Cup Race During Duels at Daytona
Even in winning his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event, Thursday night's Can-Am Duel, Chase Elliott refused to consider himself the odds-on favorite for Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Read More
Daytona
 
NASCAR Kicks Off Daytona 500 Weekend with Can-Am Duels Thursday Night
The drivers of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will take to the track at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night for the Can-Am Duels. The Duels will determine who starts in the third through 40th positions in Sunday’s DAYTONA 500.
Read More
Juncos Racing
 
Juncos Racing Announces Entry for 101st Running Indy 500
Juncos, the founder and team principal of Juncos Racing – the highly successful operation in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires developmental ladder – said his team will take the next step to the Verizon IndyCar Series on its biggest stage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. While driver and manufacturer announcements await, the news signals a “dream come true” for the immigrant from Argentina.
Read More
Al Unser
 
Al Unser to Return to Racing for Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational
Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser revealed he plans to return to wheel-to-wheel competition at the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s (SVRA) “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 17 – appropriately enough, Father’s Day Weekend. The three-time Indy car national champion will join his son, two-time Indy 500 champion Al Unser Jr., in the race to mark the first time since 1993 that they have competed together at the Speedway. Unser’s surprising return to competition comes at the 25th anniversary of the best finish by a father and son in “500” history when in 1992 Al Jr. won in what remains the race’s closest finish while dad Al brought his Menards entry home third.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,430
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact Laura Wyamn at (317) 492-8557 or email at lwyman@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
For 91 days out we stayed SUPER local - @misterlinoindy on Main Street in Speedway! #Indy500 #101bottles https://t.co/koPw5jBVmH
about 8 hours ago