News & Multimedia

Brickyard Pioneers: Where are They Now? Harry Gant

Note: This is the sixth of a series about drivers who competed in the early years of the Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com who no longer compete regularly in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

He had many nicknames in his career. High Groove Harry. Handsome Harry.

After Reggie Jackson was nicknamed “Mr. October” in Major League Baseball for his World Series heroics, Harry Gant won four Cup races and two sportsman races in September 1991 and got the title “Mr. September.” He was 54 years old at the time.

But his main, lasting handle came from a popular movie. Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds got together with U.S. Tobacco people at Charlotte one year shortly after they had filmed “Smokey and the Bandit.”

“Humpy (Wheeler, the president of Charlotte Motor Speedway) asked Hal to be the grand marshal, and Hal wanted to do something spectacular, him being a stuntman and all,” Gant said. “So he brought the flag down standing on the rail of a helicopter. He watched the race from Humpy’s suite and said, ‘I want to have a car.’ Humpy told him he had to have a sponsor, and by the time everybody got done talking, Skoal was sponsoring a car for me.

And, with a little Skoal logo graphic of a black cowboy hat and a red bandanna, Harry Gant became known as “The Bandit.”

Gant competed in the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 and led one lap before bowing out with transmission trouble early in the event. He retired after that season.

“It was a thrill to run that first race,” said Gant, 72, from his office in Taylorsville, N.C. “If I could’ve run the whole race, I’d been a whole lot better. It felt good to have to shift.

“It (the Speedway) was a heck of a place. You’ve got that backstretch ... like at Daytona, you can still tell where the start-finish line is, but that backstretch is way back there.”

Today, he’s still hard at work. Gant lives in the same house he’s lived in since he was 24 years old, 4 miles from where he was raised, and has 300 acres and 250 Angus beef cattle, which take up 50-60 hours a week. He gets to ride his motorcycle across the country twice a year on Kyle Petty’s charity trip and another trip. He still does appearances.

“I ran GM cars all my life so I pull for Jimmie Johnson and those guys,” Gant said. “I watch them on TV, sometimes the end of them. Occasionally I catch the Busch (Nationwide) races. I don’t go to the races.”

But The Bandit is still part of the colorful lore of NASCAR.

                                              ***

Super Weekend tickets: Tickets are on sale now for the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard on July 26-29 at IMS.

All ticket orders can be made at www.imstix.com and through the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday. For more information, call the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area.

Children 12 and under will receive free general admission when accompanied by an adult with a Kroger Super Weekend ticket or general admission ticket.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.
 

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Brickyard Pioneers: Where are They Now? Harry Gant
 
Brickyard Pioneers: Where are They Now? Harry Gant
He had many nicknames in his career. High Groove Harry. Handsome Harry.
Read More
Related Media
Juan Pablo Montoya
 
Monday Racing Roundup: Montoya Wins Thrilling Indianapolis 500
Montoya, who won the race 15 years earlier in his first start, held off reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and teammate Will Power by .1046 of a second -- the fourth-closest finish in race history -- in a thrilling battle over the final 15 laps that also included pole sitter and 2008 race winner Scott Dixon. Five of the 37 lead changes occurred in those 15 laps following a restart, with Montoya overtaking Dixon in Turn 1 for second place and Power in Turn 4 to lead Lap 197 by .0420 of a second.
Read More
Will Power
 
Monday Racing Roundup: Power Takes First Step Towards May Sweep at IMS
After earning the Verizon P1 Award with a track-record qualifying lap for the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Will Power was asked about the prospects of a Month of May sweep at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Read More
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
 
Monday racing roundup: Earnhardt Jr. Scores Emotional Win at Talladega
Earnhardt, his team and Junior Nation could celebrate his 0.159-second victory over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 Sunday afternoon, his sixth Sprint Cup win here. It all but assures Earnhardt a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship for a fifth consecutive year.
Read More
Jeff Gordon
 
NASCAR Teams Slated to Test at IMS on Wednesday, April 29
As a prelude to the 22nd annual Crown Royal presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard on Sunday, July 26, 2015, 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup teams are scheduled to test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday, April 29.
Read More
Scott Dixon
 
Monday Racing Roundup: Dixon Lands 36th Career IndyCar Win at Long Beach
Dixon's first victory at Long Beach was his 36th overall, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car list. Al Unser is fourth with 39 victories. It was the 98th Indy car victory for team owner Chip Ganassi.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 606
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
@GBlinebury @IndyCar @jdouglas4 its on our YouTube channel.
about 9 hours ago