BY JEFF FALK
Many athletes believe that controlling their environments and situations can produce more success. That practice and preparation can take luck out of the final equation.
But there are things – both in athletics and in life – that are beyond our control.
In his pursuit of a record ninth Daytona victory on Saturday in Florida, local stock-car racer Bobby Gerhart’s attention to detail took every possible variable into account. What may have done Gerhart in was something out of his control.
For two-thirds of the 50th running of the ARCA Daytona 200 at the famed Daytona International Speedway, the Lebanon native had the car to beat. But a malfunctioning fuel pump cost him dearly.
Gerhart had led from laps 18 through 72 of the 200-mile, 80-lap race when his fuel pump failed him. Gerhart, who had started third, officially finished 29th.
“That part of it is out of my control,” said Gerhart. “I opted to take a very small amount of fuel (on a late pit stop) based on the fact that we were getting very good gas mileage. It was extremely disappointing. We were leading the thing with a handful of laps to go.”
With Gerhart relegated to the pits and out of the way, pole-sitter John Wes Townley took the checkered flag, followed by Kyle Larson, Ricky Ehrgott and Frank Kimmel. With only three cautions throughout, the average speed of the race was 135.90 miles per hour.
“We made some decisions that I was going to have to be aggressive in some areas,” said Gerhart, “and we pushed the envelope too hard. With the new fuel pump design, it left two gallons in the tank. We had the race won, with four or five laps to go, and that was that.
“It’s a 50-50 thing,” Gerhart continued. “I take responsibility for everything I did. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but it comes with the territory. We’ve taken chances in other races (at Daytona) and they paid off.”
After taking the lead on the 18th lap, Gerhart ran strong through the middle portions of the race. It was familiar scenario – the entire ARCA Daytona field chasing the number-5 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
“Everything went perfectly as planned,” said Gerhart. “I felt like I was as aggressive as I needed to be. But maybe I wasn’t as conservative with the fuel as I could’ve been. I thought we were in pretty good shape.”
“I probably had as good a car as I’ve had in 25 years of racing there,” added Gerhart. “For 55 laps we were leading. We had the best car.”
The race’s third caution occurred on the 22nd lap, and after that Gerhart, Townley, Ehrgott and Larson broke away from the rest of the field. It stayed that way for almost 40 laps, with the rest of field way back, but still on the lead lap.
“It’s a tremendous disappointment,” said Gerhart. “I thought it would be more disappointing finishing second. I go there with the mindset of wanting to win. A little bit of it was an issue that was out of our control.
“But I think most of our decisions were correct,” Gerhart continued. “At this point of my career, I’d rather take the blame, than not be aggressive and put myself in position to win. We’ve been very, very actively working on the car we ran, for four months.”
But with his performance, Gerhart netted plenty of valuable television time for his sponsors, Lucas Oil and MAVTV American Real. The race was aired live by Speed Channel.
“I can’t complain” Gerhart told www.arcaracing.com. “Our MAVTV American Real Chevy was fast all day. We just came up a little short. I’m proud of all my guys who worked so hard on this deal. We come to win, and they know we have a shot every time we come through the gate, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Gerhart had won the last three ARCA Daytona races, as well as events in 2007, 2006, 2005, 2002 and 1999. Gerhart devotes more time, energy and money to the race at Daytona than he does to all of the other ARCA events he runs in his limited schedule.