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Harold Phil Gant (born January 10, 1940), better known as "Handsome Harry," is a retired American racer best known for driving the No. 76. 33 Skoal Bandit cars on the NASCAR Winston Cup (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) circuit in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as his 4-race win streak in 1991.
Career prior to Winston Cup
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 career
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.
Motorsports career results
(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)
(key) (Bold – Pole position. * – Most laps led.)