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Watching S1apSh0es: The History of NASCAR’s Oldest Winner

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Joshua Lipowski

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Grant Enfinger is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at the age of 38, which is quite up there by today’s standards. However, another driver was one year older when he began his first full-time season, and he became one of NASCAR’s 75 greatest drivers. That man is none other than “Handsome” Harry Gant.

But how did Gant get into the Cup Series so much later than others, and how did he become known as “Mr. September”? S1apSh0es took some time to discuss NASCAR’s Oldest winner with his most recent video.

Gant’s Early Career

S1apSh0es starts the video by pointing out the value of experience in NASCAR. As he rightly points out, NASCAR was not typically a sport where guys in their early 20s were having success in their early years. It was a sport where age and experience were typically factored in highly.

Obviously things have changed today, but Harry Gant, even at the time when drivers were getting into the sport at older ages than today, was an anomaly. Gant was 39 years old when he ran his first full-time Cup Series season, older even by today’s standard. How did he get here?

S1apSh0es goes into depth about Gant’s early life in Taylorsville, North Carolina. Gant started racing at Hickory Motor Speedway in the hobby stock division in 1962. He won a hobbystock championship in 1965.

S1apSh0es then goes into Gant’s move up to the NASCAR Modified-Sportsman division. As S1apSh0es points out, Gant won three titles in the Modified-Sportsman division and the 1969 Hickory Motor Speedway track championship. Through a good connection, Gant found his way to the Cup Series.

Gant’s Move to the Cup Series

S1apSh0es notes that the Hickory Motor Speedway track owner Ned Jarrett recommended Gant to Cup Series team owner Junie Donlavey. Gant tested the car, and, as S1apSh0es points out, almost blows the motor. Gant had apparently accidentally run the car to its’ limit because of his lack of experience with bigger motors.

What a way to make a first impression? Imagine if Gant had blown that motor during that test session. He probably would not be the same “Handsome” Harry Gant that we know today. Regardless, he ran his first Cup race at Charlotte, and S1apSh0es points out that Gant finished in 11th.

S1apSh0es then goes on to talk about Gant’s full-time Cup Series career. Gant’s first full-time Cup Series season came at the age of 39 in 1979, with, as S1apSh0es points out, fellow rookies being Dale Earnhardt, Geoff Bodine, and Terry Labonte.

Imagine a Cup Series driver beginning their career at 39 years old today. Normally at 39 years old today, people start asking about retirement in the Cup Series. Gant was just starting out.

S1apSh0es then goes on about Gant’s early Cup Series career, where he had some solid runs for Jack Beebee. However, one of the most iconic rides in NASCAR was awaiting Gant in 1981.

The Skoal Bandit Team

S1apSh0es then goes into depth about the Skoal Bandit team, who was run by Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds. From there, Gant was more than just a star on the track, he was becoming a star off the track as well. S1apSh0es points out two movies Gant was an extra in being Stroker Ace and Cannonball Run.

First of all, Burt Reynolds helping fund a NASCAR team is simply crazy. Imagine if someone like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, or Leonardo DiCaprio came in to run a NASCAR team. A lot of times, these celebrity-run teams tend to fizzle out after a few years, but that did not happen.

S1apSh0es does not go into depth on Gant’s statistics during this time, but they were pretty incredible. From 1982 until 1985, Gant won nine races, and he finished second in the points in 1984, only 65 points behind Terry Labonte. However, Gant’s best was yet to come.

“Mr September”

From here, S1apSh0es talks about Gant’s late career resurgence. After three years without a win, Gant got back to victory land in 1989, 1990, and 1991. By now, Gant was in his 50s.

Late in 1991, he earned his nickname, “Mr September” after he had already set the record for being the oldest NASCAR driver to win a race. He won four straight races at Darlington, Richmond, Dover, and Martinsville. S1apSh0es spends a significant amount of time on the Martinsville race.

Gant drove a damaged car to a win after being involved in a crash in the second half of the race. Imagine that happening nowadays? Imagine a guy winning his fourth race in a row in a beat-up car.

It simply does not happen. Even winning four races in a row is seemingly impossible. Gant did both, after he had turned 50.

From there, S1apSh0es talks about the end of Gant’s career, where he won a couple of more races. This video is a tremendous insight into one of NASCAR’s most interesting careers. Gant is one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers for a reason.

He is the story of someone that may never happen again. S1apSh0es goes into depth on this story, and gives angles I had never seen before. There truly was no one like Harry Gant.

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Joshua Lipowski

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