BY JEFF FALK
Kyle Martel is in the dawn of his racing career. Bobby Gerhart in the twilight of his.
Funny how perspectives can influence expectations.
Martel was thrilled with his run at Pocono International Raceway yesterday. Gerhart? Not so much.
On Friday evening in Long Pond, during the running of the ARCA Modspace 125 at Pocono – a 2.5-mile track known in some circles as ‘The Tricky Triangle’ – Martel, a 25-year-old stock-car racer from Lebanon, finished a career-high tenth. Meanwhile, Gerhart, a 54-year-old driving veteran from Lebanon, came in 17th, in what has now become a long line of disappointing performances in the place he regards as his home track.
Though neither local competitor ever seriously threatened the leaders, Martel claimed a spot in the top ten courtesy of a caution on the last of the short 50-lap event. Martel finished the race a lap down to the leaders, while Gerhart was two laps down.
The checkered flag went to Corey LaJoie, who was making his first ever start at Pocono, while points-leader Frank Kimmel was second and Justin Boston third. Just eight of the 36-car field finished on the lead lap, as the lack of cautions bumped LaJoie’s average speed on the race track to 162 mph.
Both Martel and Gerhart experienced the misfortune of starting a very short race in the back of the pack. In fact, Martel began the 125-mile race dead last.
But by ten laps in, Martel had passed Gerhart, who started 27th, and worked his way up to 13th. The starting grid was determined by the ARCA series’ point standings, after wet track conditions had wiped out the scheduled qualifying Friday morning.
Ten laps later, Martel was running 12th and Gerhart 17th. The highest track position Martel managed to climb to was ninth, but that came on Lap 28, when he also went one lap down to the leaders.
With seven laps remaining, Martel was sitting in the 11th position, still one lap down, and Gerhart was 18th.
In June, during the running of the ARCA 200, the minor-league stock-car racing circuit’s first visit to Long Pond and Pocono Speedway, Martel experienced early engine difficulties, was forced to the pits just a few laps in and finished 32nd. On that day, Gerhart ran 19th.
On the ARCA circuit this season, Martel has competed in just the two Pocono races. Gerhart has started five times, with no top-ten finishes to his credit.
Yesterday’s Modspace 125 represented ARCA’s 57th all-time race at Pocono. Gerhart has competed in over 80 percent of those events, while Martel has run but a handful of them.
Martel will be competing in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountain 125 in Long Pond. In that series’ June race at Pocono, Martel came in 18th.