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
Indy 500 Superbowl Commerical
 
Indy 500 Commercial Adds to Spectacle of Super Bowl Broadcast
The commercial – a first for the Indianapolis 500 during the NFL’s marquee game -- will air regionally around the Midwest.
Read More
Fan Memories
 
Fan Memories: 'Race Day is Christmas Morning'
Trent Pohlar, originally from Indianapolis and now living in Greenwood, Indiana, will be attending his 49th consecutive Indianapolis 500. Pohlar, 59, works as a project sales manager for Architectural Glass & Metal Company, Inc.
Read More
Scott Dixon
 
Dixon Unveils Throwback Livery for 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Season
Target Chip Ganassi Racing (TCGR) announced today the return of the team’s classic “Lightning Bolt” livery to the No. 9 Target Chevrolet driven by four-time and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon for the 2016 season.
Read More
Ryan Hunter-Reay
 
Honda and INDYCAR Announce Multiyear Extension
INDYCAR and Honda announced a multiyear extension to the agreement that retains the manufacturer as an engine supplier to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Read More
Max Chilton
 
Chilton Joins Ganassi Lineup for 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Season
Chip Ganassi Racing Teams announced Feb. 1 that the former Formula 1 driver from Reigate, England will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet in a full-season effort for the 2016 season.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,095
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
RT @MethodistHF: The 6 min. drive from @IMS to @IU_Health Methodist Hospital that everyone will remember: https://t.co/5OwNFHmyYl https://t…
about 13 hours ago