Never Act Your Age: Remembering Harry Gant's Incredible NASCAR Win at 52

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Never Act Your Age: Remembering Harry Gant's Incredible NASCAR Win at 52
(Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

What has no privacy, millions of dollars, and a life span less than that of an average German shepherd? A professional athlete's career—usually.

For NASCAR legend Harry Gant, we will have to settle for two out of three.

In today's world of instant gratification and "what have you done for me lately" mentality, athletes are on a short leash with their teams and the public.  Athletes are labeled as "past their prime" early and often during their careers, if winning and performance sags at all.

Don't tell that to stock car racing hall-of-famer Harry Gant. Gant was a staple on several stock car racing circuits for over 20 years. His consistent performance, solid decision making, and tremendous longevity make Gant a living legend.

Gant trounced any notion of being past his prime, when he became the oldest driver ever to win a NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup Series) race on August 16, 1992. Gant was 52 years, 219 days old.

"Handsome" Harry Gant was definitely not favored in the Champion Spark Plugs 400 at Michigan International Speedway.  Sure, Gant was a long shot to win because of his age, but he had other issues blocking his path.

You know how Toyota is "the car of tomorrow?" Well, Gant drove an Oldsmobile—"the car of yesterday." He also started in the 24th position and was in the middle of the pack for almost the entire race.

A caution on lap 97 would help showcase Gant's great decision making and driving ability. While leaders like Bill Elliott and Ernie Irvan stayed out on the track, in large part, because they had pitted during the previous caution, Gant pitted.

A green flag pit stop on lap 149 helped Gant take the checkered flag with a convincing 4.94 second margin of victory over young bucks such as Darrell Waltrip, Elliott, Dale Jarrett, and Kyle Petty.

While this was the last Winston Cup win of Gant's career, it wasn't the only memorable performance that Gant had when most would be considered past their prime.

Gant is also the oldest driver ever to win a 500 mile race at 52 years, 142 days, when he won the Budweiser 500 at Dover Downs International Speedway. He was 42 years old before getting his first Winston Cup victory, taking the checkered flag at Martinsville Speedway on April 25, 1982.

Known as "Handsome" Harry Gant to many because of his rugged good looks, he earned a new nickname in 1991 at the chipper age of 51—Mr. September.

Gant won all four Winston Cup races in September of that year at some of the circuits' most difficult tracks like Martinsville and Darlington. He also added in two Busch Series victories just for good measure.

Act your age. Past your prime. Over the Hill. Say what you want about older athletes, but Gant is proof that age is simply a number.  Gant didn't have time to act his age; he was too busy acting like a winner.

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