HomeSportsNascarNorth Wilkesboro Throwback: Dale Earnhardt ruins Harry Gant’s chance at history in 1991

North Wilkesboro Throwback: Dale Earnhardt ruins Harry Gant’s chance at history in 1991

by Jonathan Howard
Dale Earnhardt North Wilkesboro
(Photo by George Tiedemann/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

While it has been close to three decades since the NASCAR Cup Series raced at North Wilkesboro, there are a ton of great races to remember. One of the most exciting finishes at the historic track came in 1991. In the second and final race at the 5/8th-mile track that season, Dale Earnhardt battled Harry Gant in the Tyson Holly Farms 400.

There was a lot on the line in the Tyson Holly Farm 400 for Gant. Handsome Harry was on one of the most remarkable streaks in NASCAR history. He had won four races in a row entering North Wilkesboro’s fall date that year. He would even earn the pole for the race. If he won this race, it would be a modern-era NASCAR record for most wins in a row.

Not to mention, a Unocal Bonus of $144,400 if he was able to win from the pole position. All was going well for Gant at North Wilkesboro. He had led for 350 laps total, but with about 25 laps to go, things fell apart.

Gant lost his brakes and began to battle without them against The Intimidator. Of course, the RCR Goodwrench Racing team knew about the lack of brakes on the Skoal Bandit No. 33. So, Earnhardt did what he does and drove hard against Gant. He even made some contact a couple of times before passing him – how big of a deal would that be nowadays?

With 9 laps to go, Earnhardt makes a move on the outside on Turn 2 and by the time they hit Turn 3, Earnhardt put a car length between them. Gant was loose for the remaining laps, but without brakes, he held on to finish second. This was the final win for Earnhardt during his 1991 championship season. It was his fifth Cup Series title of his career.

As for Gant, despite five wins in 1991, he would finish fourth overall in the standings.

North Wilkesboro is back for a new generation

One of the things that is even better than watching these old races, is watching the old postrace coverage. You get so much more, it feels personal and intimate. You hear the family talk, the driver and owner laughing and going back and forth, it is so good!

Dale Earnhardt stopped the Skoal Bandit in his tracks. Four wins in a row is truly exceptional, but The Intimidator wasn’t going to let it be five. When he heard about the brake issue, he knew he’d use up his tires all he could to get that win.

Watch Earnhardt take a ride on the lift, just like you will see the winners this weekend take the lift ride. He then goes on to let everyone know that Dale Earnhardt Motors was going to have an open house, selling cars “at cost” for those NASCAR fans willing to come out.

This entire race and postrace coverage is a blast from the past. It is also something that no one saw returning. Ever. North Wilkesboro was destined to become a museum at best, and most likely taken back by the Earth until someone decided to demolish it one day.

However, against all odds, North Wilkesboro is back. With it, all of the memories, the great wins, the adoring fans, the lift to Victory Lane, and the original pavement that Dale Sr. passed Harry Gant on – it is there. Some of it was repaired and mended, and other parts were removed and replaced. But the track itself remains.

The NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro is almost here. Let’s make more history and memories.