SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — The oldest living Indy 500 driver, at age 93, calls the current cars go-karts and says he misses the big post-race parties.
Chuck Weyant, an Ohio native who lives in Springfield, Illinois, grew up in a racing family and had the itch. “It’s something I dreamed about since I was a kid,” he said.
His midget career paid off, winning dozens of feature events, but the call to drive at Indianapolis was so strong, he got a deal in 1954.
“[I] always had my mind set on someday going over there and even seeing it,” he explained.
But he wouldn’t let the dream end there. The next year, he made the show at the age of 32, averaging 138 miles per hour, an accomplishment that meant more to Weyant than even competing in the race.
“I think the most was qualifying, and coming off of number four corner I spun it,” said Weyant. “But anyways, it spun four times and kept going down the speedway, and in turn, I pulled in the pits, put four brand new tires on it, and I got it qualified the next time around. Here you are a little old midget driver, and you get to ride in a speedway car…unbelievable.”
Unbelievable? Yes, but Weyant, starting 25th, drove that machine to a 12th place finish. He won $3,614.
Weyant also made the show in ’57, finishing 14th, and he crashed out in both ’58 and ’59. He’s one of only 14 living drivers who competed in the rear-engine roadsters at IMS.
He regards Tony Hulman, who saved the speedway in the late 40’s, a gentleman who threw the best parties in Terre Haute, and competed against then rookie, now legend, AJ Foyt in 1957.
In the four years he competed in the 500, six drivers lost their lives, but safety was always on the back burner; it wasn’t going to happen to you, he thought. But losing his son’s namesake and close friend Tony Bettenhausen in a crash took some joy out of the sport for Weyant.
“The only time I ever really had tears roll down my eyes is when Tony got killed. Tony Bettemnhausen. Every time I went by that spot it tore me, because I knew he was done for, hell of a deal,” he said.
What the first thought that went thru his mind when he crossed the finish fighting a car that had no power steering over the brick-lined front straight?
“Where’s the next beer?”