S. Scott Powers
Columbia Regional Sports Council

- (April 12, 2011) - Former NASCAR great Harry Gant will return to Historic Columbia Speedway on Saturday, April 16, to meet and greet fans at the third annual Love Chevrolet Columbia Speedway Festival and RacersReunion. Gant, named Grand Marshal at this year's event, and other drivers will hold an autograph session from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

The autograph session will also feature Billy Scott, Paul Lewis, Ned Jarrett, Barry Dodson, Little Bud Moore, Harold Fountain, Travis Tiller, Waddell Wilson and Don Tilley alongside Gant. Media personnel will receive access to the celebrity guests only between noon and 1:00 p.m. in the event hospitality tent.

Gant, driver of NASCAR's # 33, ran several races at Historic Columbia Speedway before racing at the top level in NASCAR. Nicknamed "Handsome Harry," "Mr. September," "High-groove Harry," "The Skoal Bandit," he is noted as one of the most popular and competitive drivers in NASCAR history. Gant retired from racing in 1994 and will be this year's Grand Marshal at the speedway festival and RacersReunion.

The third annual Love Chevrolet Columbia Speedway Festival and RacersReunion will kick off Thursday, April 14 at 6:00 p.m. with a chicken bog cook-off, a concert featuring Etheridge and Kimpland and the annual candlelight track walk. Friday's festivities will include the Maurice's Barbeque Cruise-In, Lizard's Thicket Fish Fry and Black Bottom Biscuits concert. Saturday's events begin at 9:00 a.m. with the "50 Years of Love" parade from the K-mart parking lot in West Columbia to Historic Columbia Speedway.

In addition to autograph session and parade on Saturday, there will be a car show, vintage race car display, memorabilia auction, and concert with 11-year-old Macayla Reese performing songs written for Patsy Cline. Ron Pestana and The Pit Crew from Concord, California will also perform.

Admission to all events on Friday and Saturday is $5. There is no charge for children under 8, and Thursday's admission is complimentary with a parking donation. Military personnel can receive a half-off ticket with military ID. For more information, visit the Stock Car RacersReunion events calendar at or contact Jeff Gilder at (843) 997-6645.

About the Historic Columbia Speedway

The Columbia Speedway, located at 2001 Charleston Highway in Cayce, has a deep-rooted history that includes some significant firsts. A young Richard Petty ran his first race there on July 12, 1958 in a 1957 Oldsmobile convertible. He won his first ever race there a year later on July 17, 1959. Columbia Speedway became the spot of the first NASCAR race to be held under the lights when the Grand National series made its first ever stop there on Saturday night June 16, 1951. That night Studebaker got its first and only NASCAR victory when "The Rebel" Frank Mundy got to the checkers first. Chevrolet got its first NASCAR victory at Columbia Speedway when Fonty Flock drove a 1955 Chevy to victory on March 16, 1955. Other first include Buck Baker's first Grand National victory on April 12, 1952 in a 1951 Hudson. Buddy Baker ran his first ever race at this historic track on April 4, 1959 in a 1958 Chevrolet. All the stars of the sport during that era raced at Columbia. Ralph Earnhardt, Lee Petty, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, David Pearson, Cotton Owens, Little Bud Moore, are only a few of the greats who came to race there.

About Columbia Regional Sports Council

The mission of the Columbia Regional Sports Council is to strengthen the area's economy by marketing and selling the Columbia, SC region (City of Columbia, Lexington County, Richland County) as a premier destination for sporting events, partnering with local sports organizations to grow and develop existing events, and by recruiting new events which provide an economic benefit to the region by generating room nights, food and beverage sales, and associated tax revenues.

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