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Richard Jackson: one of the men who built the legend of Harry Gant as 'the Skoal Bandit'

   Richard Jackson: helped create Mr September (Photo: Richard and Leo Jackson)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Richard Jackson, who with brother Leo helped Harry Gant live the legend of 'the Skoal Bandit' and then as 'Mr. September' in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the NASCAR tour, died Monday night at 74.
    And while the Jacksons may have looked pure country – as some folks from the old Asheville-Weaverville side of North Caroline may – Richard was a full-fledged engineer: Georgia Tech, Mechanical Engineering, 1960.
   The Jacksons in fact were a major power behind the scenes in NASCAR racing, creating and producing specialized race car parts and pieces through the family's Precision Products shop in Asheville in the 1960s, long before they became team owners in 1975, running NASCAR's old Sportsman series, with some legendary drivers.
    However it was in the 1980s that Richard and Leo Jackson came to the fore of the sport, stepping up to the Winston Cup circuit.
    In 1985 the Jacksons hooked up with U.S. Tobacco, for sponsorship and marketing, with a two-team effort with brothers Benny and Phil Parson.
    They got their first tour win with Phil in 1988 at Talladega (where Phil also once took an infamous ride that culminated in a devastating crash, which earned his mangled car a prominent spot in the Talladega racing museum).
    In 1989 the Jacksons hooked up with Gant, who had, with U.S. Tobacco sponsorship and high-profile Hollywood director Hal Needham, become a popular star in the stock car racing series during the early 1980s.
    Gant won at Darlington in their car in 1989, and his run of four straight tour wins (Darlington's Southern 500, then Richmond, Dover and Martinsville) in late – with then little known crew chief Andy Petree (who would win championships later with the late Dale Earnhardt before moving to a television career) – prompted some of the country's big-city newspapers to descend up on tiny North Wilkesboro that September to see if Gant and Petree could win five in a row. (The trick Jackson, Petree and Gant used was the now famous 'cambered' rear end.)
    One of the highlights for Richard Jackson's team was Rick Mast winning the pole in 1994 for Indianapolis' inaugural Brickyard 400...where Mast caused quite a hoot.
    Richard Jackson is survived by his wife Karen of 53 years, brother Leo Jr., sisters Patricia Marshall and Gail Morgan, daughter Lisa Jackson, and grandchildren Jackson T. Young, and Emily S. Young.
   A Celebration of Life will be held Wednesday evening June 2nd at Abernethy United Methodist Church, 1418 Patton Avenue, Asheville, NC. Friends and family will be received, beginning at 6 p.m.; the service will begin at 7 p.m.
   In lieu of flowers the family asks donations may be made to Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Western North Carolina, www.ncwish.org  , or to the Abernethy United Methodist Church Children and Youth Fund.

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 Ageless Harry Gant had some great runs for Richard Jackson (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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