BY JEFF FALK
LONG POND – Live enough life and you’re going to make some mistakes.
Drive enough miles and you’re going to get into some accidents.
All things considered, and given how much hard-racing Bobby Gerhart has done over the years at Pocono, he’s probably fortunate he hasn’t sustained more wrecks at the demanding tri-oval.
An accident ended Gerhart’s quest Saturday during the running of the Pocono ARCA 200 at the famed ‘Tricky Triangle’ in Long Pond. A stuck accelorator pedal sent Gerhart careening into the wall hard and took two other competitors out with him.
The Lebanon native was examined by infield medical personnel and released. Afterwards he seemed fine physically, but perhaps a bit shooken up emotionally.
“I’m OK,” said Gerhart. “I’m going to be sore. That’s how you get hurt here.
“I feel lucky to leave here standing,” Gerhart continued. “The throttle stuck in Turn One. Are you kidding? That’s the fastest part of the track. You’re going 200 (mph) there.”
After starting 22nd, Gerhart appeared to be picking up ground on the field, when the accident occurred on lap 21 of the 80-lap event. Gerhart hit the outside wall hard and took felloow competitors Michael Leavine and George Cushman with him.
He was creditted with a 25th place finish. Pole sitter and ARCA points standing leader Brennan Poole won the 200-mile race with ease, over runner-up Chad Hackenbracht, Alex Bowman, Matt Lofton, Chris Buescher and Frank Kimmell.
“We were starting to run a little bit better,” said Gerhart. “We started running laps that were faster than our qualifying laps. If you’re rubbing speed off, it equates to a lot of time.
“We felt we gained on it a lot,” Gerhart added. “We certainly learned a couple of things today. You’ve got to be loose. You’ve got to be loose.”
Gerhart’s start at Pocono was his all-time stock-car racing record 47th there, and no racer has turned more competitive laps on the Tricky Triangle than he. Despite a cautious and conservative approach over the years, Gerhart has been involved in a handful of wrecks there.
Some of have been more severe than yesterday’s, other’s less. But what was unique about the accident was that this time it was not caused by outside sources.
“The throttle stuck,” said Gerhart. “The wreck was my fault. Not my fault, but an equipment failure. I was pressing the pedal so hard it came out of the joint and stuck. It happened the lap before. But I blew it off thinking I was wrong, and I was right.
“It had a lot to do with the new pavement (on Pocono’s surface),” Gerhart continued. “The new pavement caused them (ARCA) to release speed, so we were using the gas pedal a lot more than we had ever used it before. That’s a gas pedal problem.”
Ironically, the accident was Gerhart’s third in his last three ARCA starts, after winning his record eighth Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway in the circuit’s season-opener. Gerhart finished 42nd after an accident on lap ten at Talladega and took 20th after an accident ended his day on the 198th lap at Toledo.
“The last time I wrecked here it was just contact,” said Gerhart. “The last couple of times it’s been hard racing. This a Hendricks (Motor Sports) car we bought. It was a design flaw. It was a direct result of something on the car. The gas pedal came out of the housing.