Harold Phil Gant (born January 10, 1940), better known as "Handsome Harry", is a retired American stock car racing driver best known for driving the No. 33 Skoal Bandit car on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit during the 1980s and 1990s and his 4-race win streak in 1991.
Gant in 1996 at North Wilkesboro Speedway
|Born||January 10, 1940|
Taylorsville, North Carolina
|Achievements||1985 IROC Champion|
1984, 1991 Southern 500 Winner
1991 Winston 500 Winner
|Awards||NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers|
National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame inductee
International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee
1991 NMPA Driver of the Year
|NASCAR Cup Series career|
|474 races run over 22 years|
|Best finish||2nd (1984)|
|First race||1973 National 500 (Charlotte)|
|Last race||1994 Hooters 500 (Atlanta)|
|First win||1982 Virginia National Bank 500 (Martinsville)|
|Last win||1992 Champion Spark Plug 400 (Michigan)|
|NASCAR Xfinity Series career|
|128 races run over 11 years|
|Best finish||19th (1988, 1992)|
|First race||1982 Goody's 300 (Daytona)|
|Last race||1994 AC Delco 200 (Rockingham)|
|First win||1982 Mello Yello 300 (Charlotte)|
|Last win||1994 Busch Light 300 (Atlanta)|
|NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career|
|11 races run over 1 year|
|Best finish||24th (1996)|
|First race||1996 Coca-Cola 200 (Bristol)|
|Last race||1996 Carquest 420K (Las Vegas)|
|Statistics current as of December 18, 2012.|
Gant gained a lot of nicknames throughout his racing career. He was known as "Handsome Harry Gant" due to his Hollywood-style good looks, the "Bandit" after his longtime sponsor Skoal Bandit, "Mr. September" after winning four consecutive Winston Cup races and two Busch Series races in September 1991, and "High Groove Harry" after the high line he often took through the corner.
Career prior to Winston CupEdit
The North Carolina native began his racing career at the old dirt track in Hickory. He built a hobby class car with his friends, and took turns behind the wheel. Gant became the full-time driver and won the track championship. Hickory Speedway was paved in 1967 after Ned Jarrett became the promoter. Gant excelled on the asphalt, and won his first race in the sportsman division.
He won over 300 races with the car builder and crew chief Kenneth H. Sigmon, in the NASCAR Sportsman on his way to winning three national championships, in 1972, 1973, and 1974. He finished second three times in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division in 1969, 1976, and 1977. He finished in the top 10 of the final points standing in several other years.
He sold half of his construction business in 1979 upon deciding to race full-time in the Winston Cup Series.
Winston Cup careerEdit
Gant made his first Cup start in 1973 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, finishing eleventh in the No. 90 Ford for Donlavey Racing despite initially not being interested in the opportunity. He made six starts over the next four years and had two top-ten finishes. His first full season in Winston Cup was in 1979. He competed for the rookie of the year honors against Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte. He finished fourth in the overall rookie battle in the No. 47 Race Hill Farm car for Jack Beebe. He split the next season between the No. 47 and the No. 75 RahMoc Enterprises entry, finishing 21st in points.
After starting out the 1981 season driving for various teams, he moved to the No. 33 Skoal Bandit Pontiac, which was owned by Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds, and Leo Jackson after 1988. Gant debuted with the team by placing second at Darlington Raceway, followed by five more second-place finishes and three poles, ending the season third in points standings. He stayed with the team for the rest of his career.
Gant finished second 10 times before winning his first Winston Cup race, at Martinsville April 25, 1982, in the Virginia National Bank 500 and he would finish fourth in the final points standings. In 1983, Gant would only win once at Darlington in the Transouth 400 and collect 10 top 5s and 16 top ten finishes en route to seventh in the final points standings. In 1984, Harry Gant notched 3 poles, 15 top five finishes, and 23 top ten finishes and won at Pocono and Martinsville in the fall, he would end up finishing second to eventual Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte. In 1985, Gant would win at Martinsville in the spring, and at Dover and at North Wilkesboro in the fall, notching a career best for Gant up to that point. He would finish third in championship standings, 259 points behind eventual champion Darrell Waltrip. Gant would go winless for three years from 1986-1988 and in 1989, he would break a three year winless streak winning at Darlington in the spring which caused the veteran driver to exclaim "The Bandit is back" in victory lane.. He would not win again in 1989 but he would finish seventh in the final points standings.
Gant won the International Race of Champions (IROC) championship in 1985. He tied on points with Darrell Waltrip but was awarded the title on tiebreak by finishing higher in the final race: a photo-finish win over Labonte at Michigan International Speedway
Gant drove the No. 33 in the 1985 Talladega NASCAR race with the first telemetry data system ever installed on a race car. The data from the car was sent to the CBS television network and broadcast during the TV coverage of the race.
1990s and Mr. September streakEdit
Harry Gant entered the decade with a win at Pocono in the spring of 1990. He would finish 17th in the final points standings with 6 top 5s and 9 top 10s. In 1991, Gant would have a career year. He won the 1991 Winston 500 in the spring. He gambled on fuel mileage and won. Fellow competitor Rick Mast drafted behind Gant to give him a push the last few laps but let off in the final laps to preserve the victory. Gant earned the nickname "Mr. September" in 1991 after winning all four September Cup races (Darlington, Richmond, Dover and Martinsville) and two Busch races (Richmond and Dover) at age 51. His crew chief was Andy Petree. The four consecutive cup victories tied the modern era record set in 1972. Dominating at the next race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, Gant had his brakes fail, ending his hopes of five consecutive victories. Gant would get 5 victories in 1991, and would notch 15 top five finishes and 17 top tens and he would finish fourth in the final point standings. Gant would follow up 1991 with a strong 1992 and finish 4th in points again and was one of five drivers in contention for the championship but six finishes of 13th or worse in the final races doomed his championship hopes. Gant would win at Dover in the spring and he would get his last Cup victory on August 16, 1992, at the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan International Speedway, gambling on fuel. This would also be the final victory for Oldsmobile in Cup competition. Harry Gant and the Leo Jackson team would switch to Chevrolets in 1993 and at the end of the season Gant announced that 1994 would be his last season. Gant finished his career with a pole and seven top ten finishes and finished 25th in the final point standings.
In 1996, Gant substituted for the injured Bill Elliott in the 1996 Winston Select, driving Elliott's No. 94 McDonald's Ford Thunderbird after Elliott's injuries at Talladega. Gant also ran a partial season in the Craftsman Truck Series in 1996, driving his own No. 33 Westview Capital Chevrolet C/K. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 27, 2006.
Currently, Gant continues to work on his 300-acre ranch in North Carolina and enjoys riding his motorcycle. In 2015, he was in attendance at Darlington for the Southern 500 to take part in the retro weekend. He also still works on roofs and carpentry in his spare time. Gant once admitted that he "was a good race car driver, but a great carpenter".
He holds the record as the oldest driver ever to win a Cup Series race (52 years, 219 days) and as the oldest driver ever to collect his first career Cup victory (42 years and 105 days). He is the second oldest driver to win in NASCAR's second-level circuit, now known as the Xfinity Series, after Dick Trickle. In his career he has collected 18 Cup wins and one runner-up finish in 1984 and third in 1981 and 1985, 21 Busch Series wins, and three runner-up finishes in the Busch Series championship (69, 76, and 77). In 1985 won the IROC title. He won four races in a row in 1991 tying a "new era" (1972–present) record and came in second in the fifth race. His five Winston Cup and five Busch Grand National wins in 1991 made him the only driver, at that time, to post the most wins in both series in the same year, although he tied with Davey Allison with five Cup wins (Allison also scored a victory in the non-points All-Star Race).
He appeared in the 1983 Burt Reynolds movie Stroker Ace. He also gave a short interview in the film Days of Thunder and was mentioned for spinning out in the Daytona 500 late in the movie (although it was actually the No. 26 of Brett Bodine). He also appeared as a mob henchman in the 1984 movie Cannonball Run II. His line in the film was "Better not let the boss hear you say that."
Motorsports career resultsEdit
(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)
Winston Cup SeriesEdit
|1979||Kennie Childers Racing||Oldsmobile||14||33|
|1980||Race Hill Farm Team||Oldsmobile||10||42|
|1982||Mach 1 Racing||Buick||2||7|
|1989||Jackson Bros. Motorsports||Oldsmobile||12||12|
|1990||Leo Jackson Motorsports||5||18|
Craftsman Truck SeriesEdit
|NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series results|
International Race of ChampionsEdit
(key) (Bold – Pole position. * – Most laps led.)
|International Race of Champions results|
- "Harry P. Gant".
- "Dale Jr. Download 269 - Harry Gant: The Bandit". Player.fm. Dirty Mo Media. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Caraviello, David (January 14, 2014). "TOP 10 DEBUTS WITH NEW TEAMS". NASCAR. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
- 1989 Transouth 400 interview
- "IROC Results for 1985 - Racing-Reference.info".
- Callahan, Terry. "Skoal Racing's final ride to come at Atlanta" 1999. http://www.theautochannel.com/news/date/19991116/news003231.html
- "Harry Gant – 1985 IROC Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- "Harry Gant – 1986 IROC Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- "Harry Gant – 1992 IROC Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- "Harry Gant – 1993 IROC Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- Harry Gant driver statistics at Racing-Reference
- Harry Gant owner statistics at Racing-Reference
- Harry Gant on IMDb
- Harry Gant at Nascar.com
- Harry Gant at decadesofracing.net
| IROC Champion
IROC IX (1985)
Al Unser, Jr.