FOUR YEARS STRAIGHT: GERHART GOLDEN By Jeremy Troiano
Robert Yates Boys Second & Third, Ready To Win
Robert Yates development driver and defending UARA Late Model Stock champion Matt McCall was one of the first drivers to qualify on Friday afternoon at Daytona. He put up a blistering speed and when his Yates teammate, Stephen Leicht, failed to top his speed, it looked like the pole was his.
“We showed the speed in December (at the ARCA test session at Daytona) and we showed it today,” said Gerhart. “We don’t come to those test sessions and hide anything. We see what we’ve got; good, bad or indifferent. Not everything goes the way we want it to. This place will give it to you on the chin, so we don’t try to sugar coat nothing.”
A lot of times, teams like going out first. The wind off of the ocean though might have almost been a hindrance to Gerhart on Friday.
“Going out late kind of hurt today,” said Gerhart. “There was a lot of wind on the back. I didn’t feel that at all yesterday. I thought the car would run a 48.55 (Gerhart actually ran a 48.60). There are a lot of people with a lot of knowledge thinking it would run that.”
Three and a half hours later and 50-plus cars after McCall qualified though, Bobby Gerhart reminded everyone that he was still around.
One of the final four cars to go out, Gerhart laid down a time nearly two-tenths of a second better than McCall and the rest of the 64 qualifiers to earn the pole for Saturday’s ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
Not only did he earn the 2006 pole, but he did it as well in 2003, 2004 and 2005, making him the all-time ARCA leader in poles at Daytona and the only driver to ever win four-straight.
Besides Gerhart though, the main story was the run of the Robert Yates cars. McCall ended up second, with Yates teammate Stephen Leicht third.
McCall was disappointed to lose the pole after all was said and done.
“You go out there and qualify and you are done. There is nothing you can do then. I figured Stephen’s car would be better in qualifying though. He got some wind and it slowed in down. To wait through 50 cars and to get beat sucks. That is part of it.”
The two Yates will surely work together when the green
drops on Saturday, which could be an underlying theme to the event.
”If Bobby would have qualified between us, we would have been first and third, but they didn’t. We’ve got good drafting cars. They worked well together yesterday. But you can never underestimate what could happen when you have 10 or 20 more cars packed in there.
“If we get bumper to bumper, we are not going to get apart. We’ll push each other to the front.”
There might be a bulls eye on the back bumpers of both Yates cars though.
“Robert Yates gives us good stuff and people sometimes think different of that,” said McCall. “I’m sure there are a lot of people that want to beat us and we’ll have to work against that.”
Bobby Gerhart saved the best for last in Daytona qualifying. (51 Photos)
Matt McCall (L) and Stephen Leicht (R) debrief with team owner Robert Yates.
“A fourth-place run is about what we thought we’d do," said Hagans. "We thought yesterday that we’d have about a fourth- to seventh-place car and we ended up on the right side of that range. I’m right where I thought I’d be."
“We have a very good car and I’m proud of all the guys that have put the hard work into this weekend. The only bad part is that there’s a few guys who start right around me that have never been to Daytona before. I just hope I’m ahead of those guys if and when their inexperience starts to show.”
Greg Barnhart continued his impressive weekend by backing up his practice times with a fifth-place qualifying effort.
Matt Hagans pulled off an impressive fourth-place qualifying run. That might help Gerhart and the rest of the veterans keep the two Yates cars from teaming up on the field.
“I’m not really worried about those guys checking out or working together,” said Hagans. “It may happen, but the guy I’m really worried about is Gerhart. When you go as fast as he did in qualifying, you know you’ve got the car to beat. He was fast on his warm-up lap and even faster on his second lap, so he’ll be tough.
Hagans opened some eyes with his fourth-place time.
Matt Hagans landed right on his target right the #9 Dodge.
sponsor. We are going to try and do the whole year and this is a good showing for us. This is what we needed.”
Despite the rest of the story lines, Gerhart can still bank on the pride that comes with winning the pole.
“It still means the same,” added Gerhart. “What has happened, unfortunately, is that it has went from us coming here and being able to have a lot of fun to us having to accept a lot of pressure and people expecting us to always run good. That takes a little bit of the fun out of it.
“I think we are ready for tomorrow.”
Those who missed the show include: Ed Kennedy, Keith Murt, Craig Butts, Chad Blount, Dexter Bean, Blake Bjorklund, Terry Jones, Brandon Whitt, AJ Henriksen, Dicky Williamson, Billy Leslie, David Odell, Rick Sanders, Steve Bramley, Amanda Gogel, Butch Jarvis, Clay Greenfield, Tim Mitchell, Brad Smith, James Hylton, Benny Chastain, Jayme Beck, Mike Koch, Tony Ackerland, Ryan Foster, Justin Allgaier and Tom Gray.
“I’m real excited about it,” said Barnhart. “We backed up what we did in testing and practice. We did the same thing, hit the same marks and got the same results. It was a good, stable run.
“I am surprised a little bit about getting fifth. We came with good equipment and I’ve got good guys with me. I knew I was coming with good people and some steam. Wegner has given us some good power. I knew we would get in the show, but that was pretty amazing.
“I’m proud of the effort that everyone puts forward I’m really proud of everyone and how hard they work. We are funding this deal out of our pockets until we find a
Greg Barnhardt's #85 wasn't thought to be a threat by many observer before this week, but it sure is now.