MRN Flashback: Gant Doubles Up

Harry Gant

Harry Gant's victory in the first-ever night race at Richmond was the second of four straight wins in 1991. (Photo: ISC Archives)

Most race fans will tell you that there is a special feel whenever NASCAR’s top series has a race under the lights.

For many years, night Cup Series racing was the exclusive province of Bristol and Nashville. When the Music City lost its place on the schedule for NASCAR’s top series in the mid-1980s, Bristol stood alone for several years until a reconfigured Richmond International Raceway installed lights and joined the night race party 20 years ago this month.

The Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) tour traveled to Richmond on September 7th for the 22nd race of 29 in 1991. The Miller Genuine Draft 400 would be the first Richmond Cup race to be held under the lights. Rusty Wallace carried the race sponsor’s colors to the pole position and led the first 57 laps.

Ten different drivers swapped the lead over the first three-quarters of the race, but in the final quarter, the show would belong to Davey Allison’s Robert Yates-built Ford and Harry Gant’s Andy Petree-wrenched Oldsmobile.

After the ninth and final caution, Gant began pressuring Allison for the lead.

“I ran easy all night ‘til I got behind Davey and then I was running with all I had,” Gant said. “Whoever didn’t wear their tires out was going to be the best car. I just followed him, and it looked like he was never, ever going to slip. Finally, he slipped just a little bit and I got by. Then, the hardest thing for me to do was to keep my car going straight so he wouldn’t pass me back.”

Gant managed to hold Allison at bay for the final 19 laps and got to the finish line first by four car lengths.

“Davey ran a heck of a race,” Gant told MRN pit reporter Jim Phillips in Victory Lane. “This is the same car and the same engine that we ran last week at Darlington. It worked good there and sure put on a good show here tonight. If we keep making progress like we’ve been making the last two or three weeks, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Allison was left to wonder just what might have been.

“We ran a lot of laps there side-by-side,” Allison told MRN’s Winston Kelley after the race. “He could have just muscled me out of the way if he wanted to but he raced me clean. He’s a gentleman.

“That last set of tires was a little bit loose coming off. It was the first set like that all night. We got second. We led the most laps, I’m sure. We’ll leave here and try to get some more points next week.”

It was a clean sweep for Gant, who won the Busch Grand National (now Nationwide Series) race at Richmond the night before. One of the most often-asked questions in NASCAR is whether pulling “double duty” actually pays off for a driver. On that weekend, Gant said that the answer was clear.

“It helped me 100% running last night,” Gant said in Victory Lane. “I may not have won tonight without running last night. Some things we learned last night we put into this car today just like we did at Darlington last week and it worked.”

Gant’s 14th career Winston Cup win came at age 51 . . . prompting a question from MRN’s Allen Bestwick at the end of the Richmond broadcast.

“I wonder how Harry’s going to celebrate tonight.” Bestwick mused. “Heard kind of a funny story after he won the Busch Grand National (now Nationwide Series) race last night. He and some of the other members of his (Ed Whittaker Buick) team were on the way back to the hotel. It happened to be the one we were staying at. They stopped at a convenience store and said that Harry was more excited about the three hot dogs for 99-cents special than he was in Victory Lane after winning the race.”

Gant was clearly “Mr. September” in 1991. He followed up his Darlington and Richmond wins with a Dover sweep and a victory in Martinsville. A ten-cent ‘O’ ring failed with ten laps to go at North Wilkesboro, wiping out Gant’s brakes, and ending his consecutive win string.

This week’s edition of MRN Flashback Friday turns its attention to the first time the lights went on in Richmond. Barney Hall and Allen Bestwick lead the MRN Radio coverage team for the 1991 Miller Genuine Draft 400. You can hear the online rebroadcast of all the action beginning at Noon (ET) Friday exclusively on MotorRacingNetwork.com.

Click Here to Listen Friday

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