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  • Salt Walther

    We were in Dayton this past weekend, visiting the USAF Museum (a must see if you love aviation). Having a little time to kill on Friday evening, we thought we'd pay our respects to Salt Walther, who "Find a Grave.com" said was buried in a local cemetery. While we found markers for his dad and his brother, Skipp, we could find nothing for Salt. Maybe there was no room in the family area when he passed in 2012, or maybe he just doesn't have a marker. I know he's been discussed a bit already, but in my opinion, he has one of the more complicated legacies amongst Indy drivers. By the time I was watching racing in the early-80s, he had already faded from the scene and I just knew of him as a "spoiled rich kid" and a "pretty boy" and stuff like that. How much of that is true? Did he have any legit skill behind the wheel, or was he just there because his dad could buy him decent equipment? Looking at his overall stats, he did post more than a handful of top-10 finishes, with a career high 4th at Trenton in 1977. That said, looking at the box score, only 6 of the 17 starters were running at the finish. Like I said, his legacy feels complicated.
    Real drivers don't need fenders!

  • #2
    It's all true.
    I'll see YOU at the races!

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    • #3
      Having been born and raised in Dayton, I can tell you first hand that Salt's early attempts at short track racing made it crystal clear that he didn't have the talent to drive the push truck let alone the sprint car.

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      • #4
        Salt qualified for the 500 multiple times when there were more cars and drivers than starting spots without being on a 'factory' team (and pulled rank on Bob Harkey to pull Bob out of daddy's car during one of those races so he could get back into the race). But if someone said he was in over his head, I wouldn't argue.

        If he was a rich kid living the dream, that's okay with me at this point in my life. I may have had a harsher perspective then. I've mellowed.
        Racing ain't much, but workin's nothing. Richard Tharp

        Lying was a no-brainer for me. Robin Miller

        "I thought they booed [Danica] because she was being a complete jerk, but then they applauded for A.J. Foyt. Now I'm just confused."

        The real world sucks. Ed McCullough

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        • #5
          Salt Walther talked Jack Rhodes into getting a champ dirt car and that's how Rhodes Aviation got into racing. I told my dad to tell Jack to get George Snider to pilot it and before the year was up George was driving it.

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          • #6
            He was in Champcar around the time Waltrip was starting in NASCAR and of course a few years after Ali was shouting his mouth off. I wonder how much of it was an act; he knew he was not as good as the real drivers so gained attention by basically being a pro wrestling heel. He certainly had the look with the glam rock hair and overalls. Deserves a load of respect for coming back from that godawful 1973 crash and as I understand it that left a legacy in his later substance abuse.
            "An emphasis was placed on drivers with road racing backgrounds which meant drivers from open wheel, oval track racing were at a disadvantage. That led Tony George to create the IRL." -Indy Review 1996

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            • #7
              Originally posted by racer47201 View Post
              Salt Walther talked Jack Rhodes into getting a champ dirt car and that's how Rhodes Aviation got into racing. I told my dad to tell Jack to get George Snider to pilot it and before the year was up George was driving it.
              Salt's only time in the Rhoades car was at Springfield in 1976. Qualified dead last and DNQ for the race. Snider took over the driving duties the next week at Duquoin.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by atrackforumfan View Post
                Salt qualified for the 500 multiple times when there were more cars and drivers than starting spots without being on a 'factory' team (and pulled rank on Bob Harkey to pull Bob out of daddy's car during one of those races so he could get back into the race).
                It's at least worth noting that Walther took over the Harkey car and drove it to a 10th place finish. Walther's always typically remembered for last-place finishes, but he did have that little-known finish in the top ten.

                And had they not made the switch under green, and waited for a yellow, they could have finished higher. I think he lost 2-3 laps in the driver switch.
                Doctorindy.com

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                • #9
                  I was at Springfield the day Walther gave the dirt mile a shot. To say he didn't set the world on fire is an understatement. He was half a second from making the field on a dry, slick in a car Ziggy qualified 8th in the next week at DuQuoin.

                  I've always thought his sprint/dirt champ forays were a way of gaining acceptance in the garage area. It didn't work.

                  However, as someone noted above, the guy did make the field of 33 when there were more than 33 trying.
                  "For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal".

                  John Kennedy at American University 1963

                  "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

                  A. Lincoln

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                  • #10
                    I'll say this for the Walther team, they had some of the most beautifully presented cars on the grid. If only that much work went into mechanical race preparation given how early and often the cars failed.

                    I thought Salt redeemed himself in 1990 when he drove here, there, and everywhere to bump Jeff Andretti from the field for the 500, driving a car that hadn't shown Bubble speed all month. When Rocky Moran went out and bumped Salt, he was a gracious gentleman about it. Then he got arrested the following year, again.
                    The Ayn Rand of Indycar

                    No one had to badge the Offy.

                    Crapping all over threads since 2000.

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                    • #11
                      I talked to Bobby Unser once about Salt and he said Salt was fast but not very good if that makes sense, meaning he didn’t have a lot of skill but he could go fast.

                      I met Salt once and he was very friendly and had a lot of great stories to tell, Bob Harkey had a LOT of stories to tell about driving for the Walther team, used one of them on the show in May.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lotuspoweredbyford View Post
                        Bob Harkey had a LOT of stories to tell about driving for the Walther team, used one of them on the show in May.
                        Did Harkey tell you about Walther's rolled up socks?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by lotuspoweredbyford View Post

                          I met Salt once and he was very friendly and had a lot of great stories to tell, Bob Harkey had a LOT of stories to tell about driving for the Walther team, used one of them on the show in May.
                          I'd love to hear that. I have a few of my own with Salt.

                          www.ragingphotos.com

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                          • #14
                            I've read (and hopefully someone can confirm/correct me) that his older brother Skipp was a better driver. I do know that when Skipp was killed, he was piloting a boat that had been designed and built for Salt. Their brother Jeff, who designed the boat, had cautioned Skipp not to pilot it, saying it was a brutish machine that suited Salt because he was 1) stronger and 2) crazier than Skipp. Skipp did take it out and was killed when the boat flipped.
                            Real drivers don't need fenders!

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                            • #15
                              It seems to me that Salt was from an very insular era. He had no chance at credibility with '70s Indy media--he didn't properly pay his dues. And obviously he was the very first ever wealthy, in-your-face type the sport had ever known....
                              I live my life 4.048 miles at a time.

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