BY JEFF FALK
LONG POND – It was a long time coming. But Bobby Gerhart finally caught a break at Pocono International Raceway.
It just wasn’t the type of break Gerhart was looking for.
On Friday evening on Pocono’s 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle, the Lebanon stock-car racer’s string of poor luck at his home track continued, during the annual running of the ModSpace 150, the 13th event on the ARCA racing series’ 2016 schedule. Gerhart broke a rear right axle one-sixth of the way into the 150-mile race, and officially finished 27th.
The checkered flag for the event went to Chase Briscoe, who captured his fourth straight ARCA event. Jon Wes Townley ran as the runner-up, while Dalton Sargeant came in third, Shane Lee took fourth and Kyle Weatherman was fifth.
“When you go over the edge in things, it’s like a gamble,” said Bobby Gerhart. “It is a gamble. It’s a calculated gamble. Things shouldn’t break, but it did.”
“It goes with the deal,” said Gerhart’s brother and crew chief, Billy. “It’s going to happen. It happens to the best. It happens in NASCAR. But you don’t like it, especially when it happens at your home track. We were confident we could run better here (than in June).”
Running in the middle of the pack ten laps into the 60-lap event, Gerhart’s Lucas Oil Chevrolet Impala began to wobble noticeably in the rear – from no apparent contact with anything around him. He pulled into the pits, and then with the help of his crew, managed to maneuver his wounded racer into the garage area.
It quickly became apparent that Gerhart would not be able to make it back on to the track for the completion of the race.
“It just broke,” said Bobby Gerhart. “And when it breaks at the axle, it makes it steer sideways. I knew instantly when it happened. They’ve developed a lot of skew. It puts a lot of pressure on the drive plates. But this is the first time we got beat by it really.”
“I think it was a rear-end seal,” said Billy Gerhart. “We could’ve fixed it, but we were ten laps down. We had a shot at a nice top-ten. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.”
Following a solid time trial of 56.497 seconds and of 159.3 miles an hour on Friday morning, Gerhart started 15th in the 28-car field. Early on, Gerhart appeared competitive and it looked like yesterday might be his day.
“The car felt good. It felt very good,” said Bobby Gerhart. “What are you going to do? We thought we had the best car we’ve had here in a long time. We went totally different, with a different four-corner set-up. But only for it to go away quickly.”
“It was OK early,” said Billy Gerhart. “It just got tight over a couple of progressive laps. It just didn’t get there.
“Our goal was a top ten, a good top ten and to run better than we did in June,” continued Billy Gerhart. “And I think we would’ve accomplished that. It was some sort of mechanical issue in the back.”
During the ARCA June race at Pocono – The General Tire AnywhereIsPossible 200 – Gerhart finished 16th, after starting in the 21st position. He ran a lap down to the lead group, in an 80-lap race won by Grant Enfinger.
“I think we broke an axle,” said Bobby Gerhart. “We were good. We had as good a car as we’ve ever had here. We started the morning of practice with motor issues. In June, I didn’t think the motor was right either.
“You pick up the pieces and regroup,” Bobby Gerhart continued. “That’s all we can do.”
“You take it into the garage,” said Billy Gerhart. “You try to keep the guys up. It’s a disappointment for everyone. You don’t want them (pit crew members) to get frustrated. But we’ll race again this year.
“It wasn’t worth going back out there when you’re ten laps down,” added Billy Gerhart. “We could’ve ruined someone else’s race. It’s not the way we race.”
Yesterday represented Gerhart’s fifth start on the ARCA series during 2016. He has yet to post a top-ten finish on the circuit.
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