Leo Jackson Jr., who was the owner of the iconic green-and-white #33 Skoal Bandit car piloted by Harry Gant in the 1980s and 1990s, passed away Monday morning. He was 90 years old.
Jackson and his brother Richard, alongside their father Leo Sr., first got involved in racing via their business Precision Products which catered to NASCAR teams in the 1960s. In 1974, the brothers formed Precision Products Racing to compete in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Series, the predecessor to what is now the Xfinity Series. Bob Pressley was the team’s lead driver while the legendary David Pearson also dabbled in a race for them in 1980.
In 1985, the Jacksons entered the NASCAR Cup Series under the Jackson Bros. Motorsports banner with sponsorship from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company via their Copenhagen and Skoal brands. Brothers Benny and Phil Parsons débuted the team at the 1985 Daytona 500 before making select starts over the next two years years, with Benny scoring a pole the following season at Michigan.
Phil eventually became a full-time driver in the team’s #55 Oldsmobile. In 1988, he won his maiden and lone Cup race en route to a ninth-place points finish. They returned to a two-car operation a year later when they poached Gant from fellow Skoal team Mach 1 Racing. Gant scored a win at Michigan in the #33 and placed seventh in points.
Richard branched off to form a separate team under the Precision Products Racing name for 1990, bringing the #55 with him. This left Leo on his own to cover the entire season, as opposed to when he oversaw Jackson Bros. Motorsports’ superspeedway efforts while Richard specialised on short tracks and mile-long courses. Now competing as Leo Jackson Motorsports, the team and Gant enjoyed the prime of their careers with eight wins and back-to-back points finishes of fourth in 1991 and 1992, including a record-tying four consecutive victories in fall 1991.
After Gant’s retirement at the end of 1994, Pressley’s son Robert became the #33’s new driver but struggled with just three top tens. Late in the 1996 season, Jackson elected to retire and sold the team to his crew chief Andy Petree, rebranding it to Andy Petree Racing. APR continued until 2004 when their assets were auctioned off and went to Kevin Harvick Incorporated, which has since been merged into Richard Childress Racing; Petree won two Cup championships at RCR before joining LJM.
Jackson’s service will take place on Sunday, 12 November, at Etowah United Methodist Church in North Carolina.