PRESS PAST: Harry Gant
THE BULLSHEET – PRINTED: PCS Official Program, May 27th, 1989 (partial)
Motor Mile Speedway is celebrating its twenty-fifth season as a NASCAR-sanctioned facility in 2013. As part of its commemorative program, motormilespeedway.com will be reprinting a selection of stories from our archives that highlight the rich history and heritage of the New River Valley short track.
There was so much going on last Friday and Saturday nights that we really don’t know where to start. Guess the best place is to go with the beginning on Friday night…or maybe we should go back a few more days until Wednesday, when Winston Cup driver Harry Gant came to Roanoke for some PR work.
We were suppose to meet him at the airport at 10:30. He was to have finished practicing for “The Winston” on Tuesday, but rain kept Harry from taking to the track on Monday, so the two-day session carried over until Wednesday. To make a long story short, Harry didn’t arrive at Woodrum until about 4:30. After several stops, a quick dinner during which Harry, his pilot Mike and Skoal’s Danny Presnell made about 40 trips to the salad bar, we all arrived at Roanoke Valley Toyota for a two-hour WYYD Radio remote one minute late…at 6:01.
“Boss Steve,” All Pro President Bob Harmon, Harry and the gang stayed until 8 and then it was a quick trip back to the airport for their return flight to Statesville. While eating ,we asked Harry if he ever dreamed 15 years ago when he was towing his car all over the country…including Franklin County Speedway…if he’d ever make it big. “I dreamed about it, but never, ever thought it would become a reality or be like this.”
“Handsome Harry,” with his own twin-engine plane and pilot, flies all over the country competing in races in various tracks. And he hasn’t changed a bit in those 15 years. He’s the same Harry we knew 15 years ago…talking to everyone who wants to talk, signing autographs and racing his heart out. Harry arrived at PCS a little late Saturday night. When he got to the track, he already had changed into his uniform (or maybe he just left it on when leaving Charlotte) and the driver introduction started.
He had qualified third Friday night before flying to Charlotte so he was ready to go racing. He ran second in the race and once challenged for the lead. He almost lost the car and slipped back to third. Harry was involved in a wreck on the 135th lap and the Ray Dillon-built engine was heavily damaged. Many other Winston Cup drivers would have pulled into the pits and called it a night. Not Harry! He kept pitting trying to get the car back to competitive form, but it couldn’t be done and Harry ended up 13th.
…Ray Dillon, the noted car-builder from North Liberty, IN, owns the #33 Harry Gant drove (and drives) in the All Pro races. Since Harry was on a tight schedule last weekend, Tony Raines, who is running for Rookie of the Year honors in the ASA ranks, got the car dialed in for Harry…
He had to leave immediately following the race and couldn’t sign autographs, but he said he’d be back on Aug. 6th and would talk to the fans and autograph pictures that night. We honestly don’t know how these Winston Cup drivers keep up with the schedules they have. One thing for sure, to everyone who saw the All Pro race Saturday night, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that “Handsome Harry” can sure drive a race car and deserves to be where he is today!