BY JEFF FALK
LONG POND – Bobby Gerhart is indeed the eternal optimist.
Despite tempered success, the local stock-car racer goes into every run at Pocono believing he can compete, believing he can win. For if indeed that is the ultimate goal, a positive mindset is the ground work upon which it is laid.
It’s an approach that reflects Gerhart’s passion for the sport, the depth of his competitive character and his commitment to racing.
On Saturday at Pocono’s 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle, during the contesting of the ARCA 200, Gerhart parlayed that patient persistent approach into a ninth-place showing. It was the Lebanon resident’s best finish at Pocono in quite some time, and was also his best showing in what has been a somewhat troubling 2015 season thus far.
Trevor Bayne won the 80-lap race by 4.579 seconds over runner-up Grant Enfinger, after leading 42 of the race’s laps, including the last 12. Mason Mitchell was third, Will Kimmel fourth and Matt Kurzejewski, the pride of Mansfield, fifth.
Gerhart ran third for five laps late in the race, but couldn’t capitalize on his track position.
“There’s so many things you can look at as being negative,” said Gerhart. “I don’t see myself as a negative person. You’ve got to find the positives, look what you did right and look forward to the future.
“We needed to turn this thing around,” continued Gerhart. “We needed a good run, and we got it. It’s tough when you go a few races without a good finish. You’re under a lot of pressure. You have pressure on yourself, and pressure to do well for your sponsors, and there’s a fair amount of people who come here to see us race.”
“This is a tough game,” said Gerhart’s brother and crew chief, Billy. “You better be a big-time racer to run here for this long. To turn our season around and get a top-ten is going to be a shot in the arm for our race team.”
After running in the middle of the pack early, Gerhart ran strong during the middle of the race, working his way up to the third position. Still fourth on Lap 61, but dangerously low on fuel, Gerhart pitted under caution.
But on the restart, Gerhat experienced difficulties making up ground and ended up sliding back to the tenth position.
“I really thought we had a shot,” said Gerhart. “We got to fourth and couldn’t continue. There’s a lot of quality that has slipped into this garage area. There’s some talented young drives and some high-profile teams. I’m glad they are here because it has raised the bar for all of us. This is certainly no easier than it was 20 years ago. But that’s why we do it. It wouldn’t be a challenge any other way.
“I ran out of fuel out of cycle,” added Gerhart. “We had to come in before the pits opened. At the time, we were running fourth. It is what it is.”
“We were out of gas,” said Billy Gerhart. “We couldn’t run another lap. He (Bobby) phoned in and said he was losing fuel pressure. That’s why you play the fuel game. We had to pit before we got a lap down.”
Gerhart started eighth, and following an early caution, found himself in the 13th running position. He stayed there for the next 30 laps, then moved up to ninth on Lap 47.
“We had a decent day,” said Bobby Gerhart. “Just one little blip. We had a sixth- or seventh-place car. It was the best we ran here in a long time. During qualifying, I had my fastest trip around here, in the 32 years I’ve been coming here. It was by far our best qualifying, and it showed in the car today.
“We made an investment on equipment for the shop, and we were much better prepared,” continued Gerhart. “I would say we were better than average. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was pretty good.”
“That’s our best run in a long time,” said Billy Gerhart. “We bought some new equipment and it’s helped us out at the shop. We worked on our fuel numbers and it helped us with the finish. He (Bobby) did a great job racing, and getting around some guys at the end.”
Gerhart’s best finish at Pocono was a third in 2004.
But this year hasn’t been kind to Gerhart. He entered the ARCA series’ eighth event of the season in 55th place in the points standings, after finishing outside of the top ten in his two previous series starts.
“It’s been an ugly year,” said Bobby Gerhart. “We wrecked at Daytona. We broke at Talladega. And I had the hardest crash of my career at Toledo. Maybe this will help turn things around for us. We wanted to turn it around and run decent. I wanted to run on the lead pack all day long.
“Now we’re looking to have a better car in August,” Gerhart added. “I’m looking forward to being better. And after that, I’d say we’re going to run five or six more speedway races this year.”
“The goal today was to stay on the lead lap, be in the top ten and be competitive,” said Billy Gerhart. “And we did that. When we qualified, that was the fastest Bobby has ever been here. So we knew we had a good car.”
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Some of Bobby Gerhart’s career ARCA Highlights include:
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 308 career starts since 1988, he has 55 top-5 finishes and 120 top-10s. His best superspeedway finishes other than wins at Daytona & Talladega are 2nd at Daytona ’00, 3rdat 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, 6that 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 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 836 in 34 races. His first race was in 1976.