BY JEFF FALK
LONG POND – It’s never everything. Sometimes it feels like it can be anything.
But it’s always something.
Over the years, Bobby Gerhart has been plagued by a number of problematic issues – some of which have been related and some of which haven’t been – at his home track of Pocono Raceway. On a cloudy Friday evening on the 2.5-mile layout known as ‘The Tricky Triangle’, an undesirable set-up, race conditions and engineering issues slowed the Lebanon native, as he ran a disappointing 19th in the ninth event of ARCA’s season, the ModSpace 150.
Gerhart started in the middle of the pack and his Chevrolet just didn’t have what it took to challenge the leaders. Back in June, during the contesting of ARCA’s General Tire/AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono, Gerhart finished in a similar 17th place.
The 60-lap race was won by Justin Haley, who nudged runner-up Riley Herbst. Zane Smith came in third, while pole-sitter Kaz Grala finished fourth and Dalton Sargent was fifth.
For Gerhart, it was his 57th ARCA start at Pocono – during which time the small-budget independent racer has endured accidents, a lack of practice time and mechanical difficulties beyond his control. If it hasn’t been one thing, it’s always been another.
“It’s an accumulation of different things,” said Bobby Gerhart. “It’s extremely difficult to run a handful of races a year and the sport changes around you. The only thing you can do is get through it. Today we took a step back.”
“It’s just missing set-ups,” said Billy Gerhart, Bobby’s brother and crew chief. “I don’t think it’s practice time. It’s just not his favorite place to get around. In 2006, he finished third and had an excellent run. And we couldn’t build off that.”
Before the rains came, Gerhart gained the 19th starting spot for the race during afternoon qualifying. The start of the race was delayed for two hours by a heavy downpour and the first four laps were run under caution.
If Gerhart showed any promise in the event at all it came early, when he moved up two spots to 17th. He was still running 17th 20 laps in.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Bobby Gerhart. “It’s a new car. When everything’s condensed into one day, when you come off the truck and you’re junk, you’re junk. We were coming off a really good run last week at Indianapolis and that made it even more frustrating.
“A test here would’ve been in order,” continued Bobby Gerhart. “But it came down to 20 minutes. The longer and longer it goes, the less time we get, and this is what you get. A waste of a day.”
“It’s disappointing, big time,” said Billy Gerhart. “We expected more. Looking back, we should’ve run the car we ran in June. This is a newer car, and engineering-wise, it should’ve been better. But it was awful and we couldn’t help it. It was off all day, and not just in the race.
“You have to wait it out and hope nothing bad happens,” added Billy Gerhart. “Because that’s when something bad usually happens.”
Gerhart’s only pit stop in the short race came during a caution, on Lap 29, when he took four tires and gas. But that didn’t help his track position.
After momentarily slipping to 20th, Gerhart gained a spot by Lap 40. He ran 19th over the final 20 laps.
“We thought we were going to have a good car,” said Bobby Gerhart. “I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed in a car. When you’re off, a little bit is a lot. Today we were a lot off.
“I knew on the first or second lap we were in trouble, because we didn’t have time to make a geometric change,” Bobby Gerhart added. “When you don’t have any time, and you’re racing the car off the trailer, it’s what you’ve got. If I had an hour-and-a-half yesterday, we would’ve had a different car. All in one day, it’s just a tough day.”
“I thought we’d be OK,” said Billy Gerhart. “In June, we had a full day’s practice. I was concerned that we didn’t run this car here this year. It didn’t perform. The car was off when we got off the truck.
“You’ve just got to regroup and put it behind you,” continued Billy Gerhart. “You can’t dwell on your bad days here. We had a great run last week at Indy, the best run we ever had at Indy.”
Gerhart’s last good ARCA run at Pocono was that fifth in 2006, a feat he also pulled off in 2002 and 1997. His best ARCA finish ever at the Tricky Triangle was a third in 2004.
“Pretty much when you’re bad off the truck, you’re going to be bad,” said Bobby Gerhart. “And when you’re good off the truck, you’re going to be good. That’s what it comes down to. If you make good choices at home, it’s going to help you here.”
“I knew it was going to be a long day in practice,” said Billy Gerhart. “And then in qualifying we were a second off of what we did in June.
“You’ve got to make something happen early in these short races,” added Billy Gerhart. “There’s no time.”
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Bobby Gerhart’s Career Accomplishments in ARCA
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 well over 300 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 General Tire 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.