SIMPLY PUT: GERHART DOMINATES DAYTONA By Jeremy Troiano
McCall, Hagans, Lamar & Lusk Chase With No Success
There is no other way to put it… Bobby Gerhart dominated the ARCA RE/MAX Series event at Daytona on Sunday morning.
Gerhart led 78 of the race’s 83 laps en route to his fourth-career win at the 2.5-mile speedway. By doing so, Gerhart became the all-time ARCA leader in wins at the legendary oval. Gerhart also became the first driver in ARCA history to win back-to-back races at Daytona.
“It makes you more comfortable in the car. You can run a line wherever you want. You don’t have to protect yourself.”
Gerhart’s #5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet was so good, he was never once worried about any of the other 40 cars in the field ganging up and drafting by him. Even alone, he knew he’d stay out front.
“To tell you the truth, I was never worried about anyone. Of all the races I’ve run here, this is by far the most dominant car that I’ve ever had.”
And the dominant performance got the notice of all of those around him, especially those who tried to chase and pass him all day long to no avail. In fact, had it not been for a round of pit stops where a couple of drivers stayed out to lead a lap for points, Gerhart might have made it a clean sweep weekend by winning the pole, leading all of the laps and winning the race.
“I’ve watched him race before and I knew he’d have a good car,” said second-place finisher and Robert Yates Racing development driver Matt McCall. “He always does. You can just hope to tag team him a little bit. His car is so good though that it would take about three or four cars to get a run on him.”
While up front, the race was rather boring, from second on back, there was all kinds of action all day long, including seven cautions which took up over half of the event (47 caution laps).
Gerhart’s race was so dominant, even he knew it and couldn’t deny it.
“We dominated the event, no doubt,” said Gerhart. “That was the plan because these races are usually full of (accidents and wrecked racecars). You have to do what you have to do to get away from that. That is what we did.
Matt Hagans, who really was the only other driver to have a car that even looked to bein the same ballpark as Gerhart, knew what he was up against.
“Bobby will be starting Monday to get ready for Daytona,” said Hagans. “He spends his entire year getting ready for this race and the effort shows. He’s got a lot of power and he doesn’t tear his car up. He gets to fine tune it every year and it’s a tough deal to compete with him.”
Hagans’ words ring true, according to Gerhart.
“Some guys get caught up in running all of the races; I don’t,” said Gerhart. “I’m not going to come here for vacation any more. We just have it going on now. We just have a lot going on. We have good cars getting put together. We have good bodies on the cars. We have lots of motor too. It’s an effort that, 10 years ago, I could only dream of having.”
For the first 27 laps though, no one had anything for Gerhart. Then, the field came to pit road following Andrew Myers’ accident on the frontstretch, an accident that saw him get upside down and slide on his roof from the exit of turn four all the way down to the start of the tri-oval.
That brought most of the leaders to pit road. Ken Weaver stayed out to lead a lap, then came to pit road.
After the race returned to green, Jason Hedlesky missed a shift and handed the lead to TJ Bell. His run at the front lasted just three laps before Gerhart, with help from Hagans, pushed his way back to the front.
Gerhart and Hagans continued to lead a single-file parade for the rest of the race, dodging a multitude of accidents that knocked out several top competitors.
Take note... this is one of the few times that Bobby Gerhart's #5 wasn't out front. Here, he trails TJ Bell's #50. (51 Photos)
Gerhart now has four ARCA victories at Daytona. (Kevin Thorne Photo)
“I ruined it,” said McCall of his bid to get Gerhart on the last restart. “I went for a run, but shifted too early. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was hitting my points all day long before that. I left myself room to get a good run on him and then I just screwed it up.”
Lusk’s jump to the inside ended up just being wishful thinking. He fell back to fifth by the end of the event.
“If someone would have would have went with me, I felt like we would have had a shot at (the leaders),” said Lusk. “I timed that start right and I was able to snooker them and sneak down low. I took off and looked up in my mirror and no one was coming with me. We had some good momentum and I wish someone would have gone with me. We were right there, we just couldn’t capitalize on it.”
Hagans continued to pursue Gerhart until things almost came to a crashing halt on lap 63, when the lapped car of Brian Tyler squeezed up between he and Gerhart, forcing Hagans to get out of the gas and fall back to fifth. Hagans quickly gathered his composure and moved back up to third behind McCall to the final shootout.
With less than 10-laps to go, another multi-car accident involving Frank Kimmel, Justin Diercks, Stephen Leicht, Scott Lagasse and Christi Passmore, brought the field to a slow. Damage to the safer barriers on the backstretch meant a long caution and set up a ARCA-mandated green-white-checker finish.
As is the case with speedway restrictor plate racing, deals were being made to try and gang up on Gerhart.
But when the green fell, McCall got a late start and the fourth-place car of Damon Lusk jumped to the inside of Hagans, forgoing any chance of anyone to gang up on Gerhart, who cruised the last two laps for the win.
Andrew Myers, driving one of the team cars to Bobby Gerhart, ended up on his roof during the race.
Hagans was also disappointed at the finish.
“In the middle of the race when Matt (McCall) was following me, I thought we could make a run on him in three,” said Hagans. “I thought that was going to be our chance to get him but unfortunately I got shoved back to fifth by one of the lapped cars that decided to come outside. I don’t know what he was thinking. I restarted in fifth and got back up to third behind Matt. When I got behind him we weren’t quite as fast as we were when I was leading him so we couldn’t really chase down Bobby.
“I’m happy that we were able to fight back to third. I knew we had plenty of power to get back to the front on that
last restart. I thought all day we were going to win the race. I thought that if we could stay in line and work with McCall behind me then we’d work our way to the front and be good to go.”
But all of the scheming and beating and banging was for nothing. Gerhart was not going to be beat on this day.
“It’s special always special,” added Gerhart of his fourth Daytona win. “That car will come back here for sure next year.”
Being out front also kept Gerhart away from all of the action that happened behind him; including two accidents that took out both team Bobby Gerhart Racing cars.
“Both other cars got hurt pretty good, but that is just part of the game. That is part of Daytona. That doesn’t take anything away from the win.
“Being out from is the absolute only way you can be away from all of that.”
And that is exactly what Gerhart did… all day long.
Daytona Int'l Speedway, Daytona, FL
1 Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA
2 Matt McCall/Denver NC
3 Matt Hagans/Pittsboro IN
4 Burney Lamar/W. Sacramento CA
5 Damon Lusk/Kennewick WA
6 Ken Weaver/Dallas TX
7 Billy Venturini/Chicago IL
8 Mario Gosselin/Lake Wales FL
9 TJ Bell/Sparks NV
10 Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN
11 Jason Hedlesky/Clinton MI
12 Dan Shaver/Charlotte NC
13 Jeremy Clements/Spartanburg SC
14 Brett Rowe/Barboursville WV
15 Erin Crocker/Wilbraham MA
16 Ryan Howard/Tipp City OH
17 Chuck Weber/Mesquite TX
18 Darrell Basham/Henryville IN
19 Doug Reid/Hueytown AL
20 Todd Bowsher/Springfield OH
21 Norm Benning/Pittsburgh PA
22 Brian Tyler/Parma MI
23 Tim Russell/Longwood FL
24 Eric McClure/Abingdon VA
25 Stephen Leicht/Asheville NC
26 Justin Diercks/Davenport IA
27 Christi Passmore/Pryor OK
28 Chad McCumbee/Supply NC
29 Scott Lagasse Jr./St. Augustine FL
30 Johnny Leonard/Cape Coral FL
31 Mike Harmon/Birmingport AL
32 GR Smith/Folsom NJ
33 Dawayne Bryan/Lake Alfred FL
34 Walt Brannen/Elko GA
35 Greg Barnhart/Oklahoma City OK
36 Andy Belmont/Penndel PA
37 Danny O'Quinn/Coeburn VA
38 Willie Allen/Bonaqua TN
39 Andrew Myers/Newport Beach CA
40 Loyd Teakell/Caldwell TX
41 Brandon Knupp/Piqua OH
Matt McCall (#55), Matt Hagans (#9) and Damon Lusk (#37) had a shot at Gerhart late in the race.