Bobby Gill Scores "Old School" Pro Cup Victory at South Boston by Matt Kentfield
Throwback Racer Uses Rain and Pit Strategy to His Advantage in Northern Division Opener
Inside Bobby Gill's #06 Pro Cup machine is an "old school" racer that played the right strategy for the South Boston victory. (51 Photo)
Bobby Gill is old-school. He is not going to ever be compared with the politically-correct, polished, PR robot attitudes that has infested many of the young drivers in short track racing, including some of the young talent in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series that Gill competes in.
Instead, Gill knows his role in short track racing. He is now 48 years old. He’s not auditioning for a NASCAR ride. How old school is Bobby Gill? He lists his hobbies in the Pro Cup Media Guide as “Golf and Gambling.”
He has, however, won just about everything there is to win on the short track racing level. He’s got the Snowball Derby trophy. He’s won in the old All Pro Series. He’s a three-time USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Champion.
But Saturday night was one where Gill had to use every trick and strategy he has amassed in his short-track career, including pit strategy and patience - plus a little bit of luck with the weather - to score his 44th-career Pro Cup victory. Never mind that Gill had to beat out perennial foe Clay Rogers for the win.
It doesn’t matter that he got a little lucky in his pit strategy by pitting early and risked an early checkered flag with impending storms. For Gill, his 44th career Pro Cup win is another trophy to add to the collection. It’s another paycheck to add to the bank account. It’s also an excuse to have a few adult beverages in celebration.
Bobby Gill is certainly old school.
“It don’t mean nothing to me where or when I win,” said Gill with a smile after swigging a gulp from his champagne bottle after his victory lane celebration. “It’s all about collecting a paycheck. I’m probably going to go get drunk tonight. Mark McFarland said I could stay in his motor home tonight. I race to win and to make a living. I’m 48 years old and in four or five years, this ain’t going to be here for me, so I have to do it while I can.”
Gill played the role of the old wise man at South Boston Saturday night. Like a typical Bobby Gill race, he started mid-pack and raced his way to the front. He let the younger, more inexperienced racers show the way for a while, eventually pouncing when the time was right.
Frank Deiny, Jr., who made his Pro Cup North debut at his home track of South Boston and set a new track record in qualifying, plus Derek Kale and Mark McFarland, were the Pro Cup youngsters who led the way early, while the veterans like Gill and Rogers bided their time to the front.
But there wasn’t too much time to dilly-dally for any of the 32 starters Saturday night. Storms that plagued the entire East Coast of the country over the weekend posed a threat throughout the day at South Boston. Most teams had their laptop computers dialed into the radar, trying to plan a strategy that would keep them up front if and when the rain came.
Some drivers, including Gill, Rogers, Woody Howard, Gary St. Amant and A.J. Frank, who were all running in the top-10, came in for their tire and fuel stops under a lap-50 caution. Others, like Kale, McFarland and Deiny, stayed out and began to pray for rain. The rain still held off and eventually Deiny had to pit, but Kale and McFarland stayed out.
Kale showed the way when the scoreboard clicked lap 126, meaning the race was halfway and official should the rain come. Sure enough, it did on lap 152.
Another "old school" racer, Gary St. Amant, was the first to welcome Gill to SoBo's victory lane. (Kathy Bond photo)
When the field was brought to pit road for a red flag, Kale and his team looked like racing geniuses. When the rain passed just a few minutes later, they went into hoping to look like math geniuses.
“I was doing a rain dance,” said Kale. “We kept watching the radar that we had up on the computer. It looked like if it hadn’t passed as quick as it did, we would’ve been alright because another storm was coming in behind it. I pretty much knew we were going to go back racing, but we just had to decide what to do and when we were going to come in. Hindsight 20/20, we probably should’ve come in a little earlier than we did.
“When that red flag came out, we thought we made the right call. Then when it looked like we were going to go back racing, we started doing the math and saw that we weren’t going to make it. We pretty much knew that we were out to lunch and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.”
Gill (#06) had to hold off Clay Rogers (#29) on a final green-white-checkered restart for the win. (Bond photo)
Kale hung in the lead as long as he could, but when the yellow flew on lap 213 and the rain had yet to come back, Kale had to make it to pit road. So did McFarland, who followed Kale throughout the middle stage of the race.
That put the lead into the capable hands of Gill, who would not relinquish it despite the one last rain delay and Rogers’ best attempts to spoil the South Boston win for the veteran. For a driver who has won just about everything in every possible way, it was a little stroke of luck that earned him this win.
“I can’t say it’s a gas mileage deal, or a pit strategy deal or a tire deal,” said Gill. “The way this deal is, if you’re going to get gas, you’re going to get tires the next stop. It’s a guessing game, really. You don’t ever know how it’s going to work out. We tried something, then the leaders did their thing. The biggest thing was if it had kept raining, then those other boys would’ve won the race. But it didn’t.
“I felt like I could’ve passed those guys and been leading the race before the rain happened. But in the long run it all worked out.”
Gill is used to everything working out in his favor, by now. He had to hold off Rogers, Matt Carter, Deiny and Gary St. Amant over the final laps and a green-white-checkered restart, but Gill had what it took Saturday night.
Call it luck, skill or strategy, Bobby Gill knows how to win using his old-school tactics.
“We practiced all day on 100-some lap tires. It started yesterday in practice. We put on new tires and put 75 laps on them. We practiced another 85 laps on them today. We never even put sticker tires on there except to scuff in a second set. I just worked on the car with the old tires.
“This race brings me back to 2000 or 2001 when I did my own deal. We never even bought sticker tires and the car kept on working. We stayed on old tires and that deal worked out for us tonight. It might not work for us next week, but it did tonight.”