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Leo Jackson, owner of iconic ‘Skoal Bandit,’ passes away at 90

Leo Jackson, who fielded the “Skoal Bandit” No. 33 Chevrolet, made famous by Harry Gant who wheeled it to nine wins in four years, has died.

Jackson was born July 8, 1933, in Asheville, N.C. In 1985, he began fielding NASCAR Cup Series cars with his brother, Richard. They started out as a part-time team, fielding cars for Benny and Phil Parsons that year and in 1986.

In 1987, Phil Parsons went full-time with the organization. He scored seven top-5 finishes and 22 top-10s in 58 races. He also earned a win at Talladega and a ninth-place points finish in 1988.

In 1989, Harry Gant joined the team and reeled off a victory at Darlington in April.

After Leo Jackson parted ways with Richard Jackson, Gant won at Pocono in June 1990 and Talladega in May 1991.

Then, four months later, Handsome Harry had his big moment.

Harry Gant won four races in a row in September 1991. In a bid for a modern-era record-breaking five wins in a row, Gant led 350 laps at North Wilkesboro before Dale Earnhardt passed him for the win on lap 391 of 400.

In that timespan, Gant ascended from 10th to fifth in points and finished fourth in the final points standings. The next year, 1992, Gant finished fourth in points again with wins at Dover in May and Michigan in August.

Neither Gant nor Jackson ever won again. Gant retired after 1994 while Jackson retired after 1996 and sold the team to Andy Petree.

Andy Petree Racing earned a top-10 points finish in 1997 with Ken Schrader – and wins with Bobby Hamilton at Talladega in April 2001 and Joe Nemechek at Rockingham in November 2001 – before folding after 2003.

While Leo Jackson and his successor didn’t field cars as long as the likes of Petty, Hendrick, Roush and Penske, his Skoal Bandit No. 33 Gant drove still stands toe-to-toe with any of theirs among the most iconic NASCAR paint schemes.

Jackson will be remembered as an innovator in the sport – and a family man, most importantly.

Jackson passed away Monday. He was 90. At the time of his death, he resided in Mills River, N.C.

Funeral services for Leo Jackson will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Etowah United Methodist Church in Etowah, N.C. Visitation will take place Saturday from 4-6 p.m. Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian in Arden, N.C.

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