BY JEFF FALK
LONG POND – A day like this at a place like this might break a lesser racer. But Bobby Gerhart is resilient, a fiery competitor, he knows what it takes. He has racing in his blood.
In fact, it may make the persistent Gerhart even more determined.
On Friday afternoon, during the running of the GeneralTire #Anywhereispossible 200, Gerhart endured another somewhat disappointing showing at Pocono International Raceway’s 2.5-mile tricky triangle. The Lebanon stock-car racer came in 17th – and two laps down to the lead pack – during the 80-lap, 200-mile race, the seventh event of the 2017 ARCA racing season.
Early motor problems inhibited Gerhart’s progress throughout the race. But on the bright side, man and machine both emerged from the race clean.
“You can’t quit,” said Bobby Gerhart of the engine difficulties he experienced early in the event. “You’re here to run. You’ve got to run on. Hopefully it gets bad enough to isolate the problem. It’s kind of like running out of gas.
“To me, it’s very disappointing,” continued Bobby Gerhart. “You can’t dwell on it. You’ve got to put it behind you. You’ve got to make it better.”
“It’s home for us, been it’s been a nemesis over the years,” said Gerhart’s brother and crew chief Billy, of the Tricky Triangle. “Would we like to take the success from Daytona and bring it here? Sure. But it doesn’t mean we don’t come here.
“The fact that we don’t run all the races hurts too,” Billy Gerhart continued. “It’s a sponsor issue. But we beat teams today who do run all the races. Would we like to run 20 races in a season? Sure. We just have to keep working on it. I’m already looking forward to July (ARCA race at Pocono).”
The race, which endured very few cautions, was won by Riley Herbst, an 18-year-old rookie who is Gerhart’s junior by about 40 years. Herbst beat runner-up and pole sitter Brandon Jones to the checkered flag by two seconds, while Michael Self was third, Zane Smith fourth and Gus Dean fifth.
Dalton Sargeant, Ty Majeski, Sheldon Creed, Austin Theriault and Vinnie Miller rounded out the top ten.
For Herbst, it was his first ever ARCA victory. He also set an ARCA race record at Pocono by completing the 80 laps in an hour, 19 minutes and 55 seconds.
“Some tracks are good to you,” said Bobby Gerhart. “Some tracks are tough for you. It makes you work harder to bring a better car. We’ve had some highlights here. As things change, I get behind the eight-ball with what’s done with these cars in Pennsylvania. But we’ll get better.”
“We would’ve liked to have seen a top ten here,” said Billy Gerhart. “I thought we had a chance to do that. If we would’ve run like we did at the end, we could’ve finished 12th or something like that.”
Despite his engine difficulties, Gerhart, who started 17th, made some headway on the field early. He got to 12th by Lap 25 and was 13th on Lap 30.
On Lap 33 he was still running 14th, but Gerhart was losing ground to the lead pack.
“This was our first race with a big body car,” said Bobby Gerhart. “There were some highlights. We qualified better than I ever did, by about half-a-second. We have some work to do. On top of all that, we didn’t have the perfect package for a late-day race.
“During the first part of the race, the fuel light was on all the time,” added Bobby Gerhart. “When we changed fuel, the car went faster. We have no way of changing anything. The computer tells us everything. It could’ve happened any time. But it wasn’t terminal. It sounded completely different in qualifying.”
“We weren’t sure what was going on,” said Billy Gerhart. “It sounded like the motor was down. Something wasn’t right. The car wasn’t quite right early, we were tight and we couldn’t get good lap times. We got down a lap and probably shouldn’t have.
“It sounded fine until the start of the race,” Billy Gerhart added. “We’re a little stumped about what caused the issue. This was the first time we ran this body. We were good in qualifying, but not in the race.”
A pit stop at the midway point of the race seemed to help the issue. But by that time, Gerhart was too far off the lead to make any significant noise.
He ran in the 17th-to-18th position for the final 40 laps of the race.
“It’s not common,” said Bobby Gerhart. “This whole package is brand new. For me, this is about the seventh or eighth race with this package. We haven’t had any trouble. I haven’t had a complaint.
“We wouldn’t have been a lap down (with engine difficulties),” continued Bobby Gerhart. “We would’ve had an eighth- or ninth-place car. With new fuel, we had better times. Strange.”
“We would’ve liked to have seen a caution early,” said Billy Gerhart. “We get one and we might not have gotten a lap down. That didn’t help. But it was the same race for everyone.
“We had three hours of practice with a new car and a new body,” Billy Gerhart continued. “For the next time we run the car, we learned some things today. I was pleased with the lap times at the end. After the pit stop, we were able to run a second faster. We thought we could run in the 55s in the race, and the best we could do was 56-flat.”
All things considered it was another disappointing turn for Gerhart at Pocono. In his 30-plus year career, Gerhart is the all-time ARCA leader in races started and laps at Pocono, but has never won there
“It’s (his racing career) year-to-year,” said the 58-year-old Bobby Gerhart, who recently got engaged. “I’ve given up a lot in my life to do this. But things change. I’ve got a long list of things I’d like to do – a book.
“But I’d like to stay involved to some degree,” Bobby Gerhart continued. “Unfortunately, in this sport, it takes a lot of money to do it. That part is hard to do, with the way I’ve been doing it. Racing doesn’t get any cheaper. From a business standpoint, if an opportunity presents itself to carry on, I will. If not, it is what it is.”
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|2017 DRIVER POINT STANDINGS, ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards|
|After Event #6, Shore Lunch 250, Elko Speedway, Elko MN – 6/03/17|
|Pos||Name||Points||Starts||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|CAREER ARCA RACING SERIES STATS|
Bobby Gerhart’s Career Racing Highlights
Bobby Gerhart’s 8 wins at Daytona came in ’12, ’11, ’10, ’07, ’06, ’05, ’02 & ’99. Outside his career-best ARCA championship point finishes of 2nd, he also finished 3rd in ’99, 5th in ’00 & ’91, 8th in ’88 & 10th in ’90 & ’97. In 313 career starts since 1988, he has 55 top-5 finishes and 122 top-10s. His best superspeedway finishes other than wins at Daytona & Talladega are 2nd at Daytona ’00, 3rd at Talladega ’11 & ’08, 3rd at Talladega ’05, 3rd at Pocono ’04, 3rd at Talladega ’97, 4th at Daytona ’08, 4th at Pocono ’08, 4th at Kansas ’05, 4th at Pocono ’02, 4th at Michigan ’98, 4th at Texas ’98 & ‘91, 5th at Pocono ’06, 5th at Pocono ’04, 5th at Kentucky & Talladega ’00, 5th at Lowe’s & MIS ’99, 5th at Pocono ’02, ’97 & ‘96, 6th at Kansas ’06, 6th at Pocono ’06, 6th at Daytona ’04 & ‘14, 6th at Daytona & Pocono ’01, 7th at Nashville ’06, 7th at Talladega ’06 & ‘14, 7th at Pocono ’05, 7th at MIS ’02, 8th at Kentucky ’06, 8th at MIS ’04, 8th at Daytona ‘98, 9th twice at Pocono ’15, 9th at Pocono ’09 & ‘10, 9th at Chicagoland ’10, 9th at Kentucky ’05, 9th at Gateway ’04, 9th & 10th at Atlanta ’98, 10th at Pocono ‘05 and 10th at Kentucky ‘04. His best short-track finishes are 2nd at Anderson ’00, 2nd at Flemington ’99, 3rd at Salem ’06, 3rd at Hagerstown ’89 & Flat Rock ’91, 4th at Winchester ’07, 4th at Toledo ’04, 4th at South Boston ’02, 4th at Toledo & Winchester ’00, 5th at Toledo ’07, 5th at Winchester ’06, 5th at Lake Erie & Milwaukee ’05 and 5th at Kil-Kare ’00. Bobby also won Menards Pole Awards at Daytona in 4 consecutive seasons ’03, ’04, ’05 & ‘06. Also Pole winner at Talladega ’06, ’02 & ’01, MIS ’98 & Winchester ‘00. He has led 839 in 35 races. His first race was in 1976.