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
Brickyard 400
 
#MyBrickyard: Jack Obringer, Fairfield, Connecticut
Today’s fourth installment features Jack Obringer of Fairfield, Connecticut, who has bought tickets for all 23 previous Brickyard 400 races. Jack’s story is unique because he attended the first 10 races with family and friends as a fan. Then he started working for ESPN and attended the race to work while giving his tickets to family and friends.
Read More
SCCA
 
SCCA Runoffs at IMS Attract Record Entry of More Than 750 Drivers
Competitor registration opened July 19 for the Sports Car Club of America 2017 National Championship Runoffs being held this year for the very first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 29-Oct. 1. In just 24 hours, 763 driver entries were registered -- crushing the 413 entries made in 24 hours for last year’s 2016 Runoffs at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Read More
Ryan Reed
 
XFINITY Series Standout Reed Already Wins Important Race by Managing Diabetes behind Wheel
Reed, 23, from Bakersfield, California, is eighth in XFINITY Series points this season. But he won the season-opening race in February at Daytona International Speedway, guaranteeing a spot in the XFINITY Series playoffs. He has four top-10 finishes in 17 starts.
Read More
Brickyard 400
 
#MyBrickyard: Debbie Richardson, Rushville, Indiana
Today’s third installment features Debbie Richardson of Rushville, Indiana, who has attended all 23 previous Brickyard 400 races with family and friends. This is Debbie’s account of why she loves the NASCAR weekend at IMS, which is July 21-23 this year for the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 and the Lilly Diabetes 250.
Read More
Danica Patrick
 
Danica Enters Familiar Comfort Zone at Brickyard
“I love going to Indy,” Patrick said. “I love driving through the tunnel and coming into the track – when it’s empty – just seeing the Pagoda. It’s just such a special place, and I have so many great memories from there. No matter what car I’m driving, I always feel the track’s magnitude and just how special of a place it is.”
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,683
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 IMS Sales Department at (317) 492-8739 or email at hospitalitysales@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
It's Pole day on @CrownRoyal Armed Forces Weekend & we can't wait to see you! Check out details on the day: https://t.co/yKQ6Db3YRK
May 21