Is ‘typical’ something that’s positive or something that’s negative? Well it all depends on one’s historic perspective.
Let’s just say that yesterday Lebanon racers Bobby Gerhart and Kyle Martel enjoyed what have become fairly typical runs at Pocono Raceway, and leave it at that.
On Saturday afternoon at Pocono’s Tricky Triangle, in Long Pond, PA, Gerhart finished 12th and Martel ran 14th, during the Pocono ARCA 200 stock-car race. Though neither had the fastest car on the 2.5 mile course on this day, both local drivers avoided trouble and kept the noses of their Chevrolets clean.
The 200-mile race was won by 22-year-old pole-sitter Kyle Larson, the 17th different winner over the last 17 ARCA races at Pocono. Larson beat runner-up Mason Mitchell by 1.153 seconds to the checkered flag, while John Wes Townley grabbed third, Will Kimmel took fourth and Justin Allison was fifth.
After Martel started 14th and Gerhart began 17th, neither seriously contended for the lead, or cracked the top ten. Both Gerhart and Martel experienced difficulties generating television exposure for their sponsors during an 80-lap, 30-car race that was televised live nationally by Fox Sports 1.
“It wasn’t a fantastic run, but it was a solid run,” said Gerhart. “Truthfully, it was a better run than we’ve had here in four or five years. We were just a click away from being a top-five car. We came off the truck, and during Wednesday’s test we pretty much got we brought. But we expected more today.
“I’m pleased,” Gerhart continued. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve had a significant improvement in performance. We’re not miles away. We’re a couple of baby steps away from running very, very well.”
Gerhart got to 12th with four laps remaining, after avoiding a couple of late mishaps on the track. Gerhart ran in the 13th-to-17th positions most of the afternoon, but did not finish on the lead lap.
On Lap 48, Gerhart was positioned in the 18th running spot. But over the next 22 laps, he worked his way up to 13th.
“We started in the back and there was a lot of green-flag racing,” said Gerhart. “We had to have some cautions. If we would’ve had an opportunity to make a couple of adjustments, it would’ve helped us tremendously. Fans want to see racing and they got what they wanted . We (drivers) want to race. We don’t want multiple cautions. But we didn’t get a chance to throw some changes at it.
“We spent a lot more time getting this car ready, and it showed,” continued Gerhart. “We had no mechanical issues. It was a flawless weekend. But we lost something yesterday, and it showed today. I feel we can run better.”
Gerhart’s quickest of his 80 laps was timed at 56.66 seconds, while his fastest time of the day was 158.842 miles per hour. Gerhart had entered the seventh event of the 2014 ARCA season 19th in the points standings, thanks in part to two earlier top-ten finishes.
“The season’s going all right,” said Gerhart. “We’ve been very competitive every place we’ve been. I’m beating myself up for how I ran at Talladega. I got shuffled to the back there and worked my butt off to work through traffic. A couple issues that happened there cost us a win. But we were very competitive.”
Gerhart is ARCA’s all-time leader in competitive laps run at Pocono, and his best career finish is a third.
“This was a race that Lucas (Oil) wanted us to run,” said Gerhart of his major sponsor. “To some degree, I do feel an obligation to run here. Obviously being here so many years, I know so many people. We didn’t have a bad crowd today. They haven’t had as good a crowd in 15 years. But when I walked through the garage area and down pit road, I couldn’t go five or six steps without somebody stopping me. Yes, I do have an obligation to race here. But I enjoy the race track. When you figure this track out, it can help you at other places.”
The 26-year-old Martel charged his way from a 14th starting position to 11th on Lap 48. He was still running 15th two laps later, before falling off to 18th by Lap 52.
But Martel was able to improve his track position by three spots over the race’s final ten circuits. Martel’s best speed during the race was 157.638 and his most efficient time was 57.093.
He finished two laps down to Larson.
Martel was making the 16th start of his fledgling ARCA career, the majority of which have come at Pocono Raceway, the venue he considers his home track. It was Martel’s first ARCA start of the 2014 season.
Martel’s best career finish at Pocono is a tenth.
Martel and Gerhart were the only two drivers from the same hometown entered in the race.