Underdogs Make Good, Lapped Cars Make Bad & More

At first glance, Bobby Gerhart's 14th place finish may not look like such a bad night.  But if you talked with Gerhart after the ARCA 200 at South Boston Speedway, it was clear that he wasn't very happy.
Gerhart had a rocketship. He started 13th but quickly soared to the front of the field.  While battling with several lead lap cars for position, Gerhart was bitten by a lapped car. Gerhart crashed and the car was never the same.

“I had a car that could have won this thing,” said a disgusted Gerhart, “but lapped traffic took it away from me.  I got pinched on the inside wall and it knocked the rear brake line off the car, so I finished the race with no brakes at all.  Very disappointing!

“There are a few lapped cars out there that have ABSOLUTELY no respect for lead lap cars.  They don't listen to their spotters. I don't get it!  That's what this series
consistently chooses to let go.  Until they decide to sit one of them down or black flag a couple of them, it's just going to continue to run rampant. That's just the way it is.  It's always been that way and I guess it's always gonna be that way.”

In this day and age of money ruling motorsports, it is nice to hear about one of the “little guys” doing well.  That little guy at South Boston was Norm Benning.

A few years back Benning had the fancy hauler, crew uniforms and paint scheme when he had Sobe Beverages as his sponsor. Pepsi bought out Sobe and the sponsorship for Benning disappeared.  Something that didn't disappear though was Norm's competitive flare.
Shane Huffman's car slides through turn one at Concord during practice.  (51 Photos)
Now some folks within the racing world may look at Benning's sponsorless, plain-white and often dented looking #84 and snicker as it rolls by.  But all of us at 51 commend this underdog for his effort.  And the little guy made good at South Boston with a strong fourth-place finish, one of only four cars left on the lead lap.

“I look around and I'm probably the only guy in the top-twenty without a sponsor,” said Benning.  “We showed them what we can do without money and tonight we ran the entire race on one set of tires.  We never pitted at all and ran out of fuel on the very last lap.  We just barely made it.
“The way they do it, you don't know when to jump in and talk. It was good the way they made things flow though.  I was definitely nervous and not wanting to mess up and sound like an idiot because they were so good. 

“I had a great time and would do it again but I want to get back in that racecar.  It hurt not to be out there running with all of these guys tonight.”

Hemphill will be back behind the wheel of his ARCA ride at Kentucky Speedway on July 9th.

TJ Majors is one of the most colorful characters in the ARCA Series. The edgy lookin' young gun drove his guts out at South Boston in his black and day-glow orange #08.  And he  was rewarded for his efforts with a strong sixth place run, the rookie's top ARCA finish.

The top-three (ARCA regulars) teams have stood up and everyone is taking notice.  Frank Kimmel has nine top-10 runs in 10 races.  Brent Sherman is third in points and has been steady.  Billy Venturini (second in points) has had five of his 10 runs result in top-fives, including a real strong third-place performance at Sobo.

“I think it is starting to show why the first three drivers are the first three drivers in points, said Venturini.  “It's a classic example.  We were top-three in practice, top-three in qualifying, and top-three in the race.  That is because we are the top three teams in the series right now and it is showing.
“If we keep doing this every night we are going to end up second in points or maybe even the champion when the year is over.“

Brent Sheman was antsy, telling his crew that 'it's not over'. The Serta crew was happy because their driver was at the top of the scoreboard during ARCA qualifying.  And when their biggest threat, Frank Kimmel ran a lap slower than Sherman, the entire crew began to celebrate.

Brent quickly put on his firesuit after qualifying, and scurried to the pole board for press photos with the Pork Pole Award. He got ready so fast, he didn't even have time to tie his shoes.

The pole was real special for Sherman, being his first in any form of motorsport. And it was a shot in the arm for the 30 year old, who feels like a win is not far away.

“I'm pretty pumped about the pole. I had to immediately turn my attention to the race. I've started on the front row before but never on the pole. Hopefully it's the first of many.

“I'm coming.  I don't think I've ever finished that close to Frank in a race at a short track.  Hopefully we will go to Berlin now and get a win.”

Peyton Sellers, who is a South Boston Speeedway Late Model Stock regular, made quite an impression during his ARCA debut.  He was running within the top-five when mechanical woes did him in.

“We had an awesome run going.  Normally I am a little too aggressive but they calmed me down on the radio.  After the first caution the motor jumped up to 250 degrees and it kept getting hotter after that.  It got so hot on us we couldn't finish.”

“I run late models here every week and because of that we had the crowd on our side all night.  That pumped me up even more.  To be out there running good and have the crowd on your side is pretty cool.


USAC standout AJ Fike was another driver who had a fast car that didn't meet its potential at races end.  Fike was involved in the Bobby Gerhart wreck and was put a lap down when it was ruled that the leader had passed him when the yellow came out.

Venturini is determined to win his first race and contend for the ARCA Title (51 Photos)
Brent put his suit of for Pork Pole pictures and never laced up his shoes! We love the look Sherm! (51 Photos)
Bobby said he got not respect from the lapped cars at South Boston.  (51 Photos)
“Short tracks and the one mile dirt tracks level the playing field.   At these tracks having the money isn't as big of a deal. If you have decent horsepower and can drive the thing you'll be alright.  On the big tracks, you need the slick body and the big horsepower.  Here you can't hook it up.  On the short tracks and the dirt tracks we will always be competitive even without the money.  With the money we can do it everywhere.

“I had Sobe for a few years and it was great.  We were in a position to win three races.  Pepsi  bought Sobe and they discontinued the relationship because they have Jeff Gordon.   Sobe was happy with what we did for them and they told us we were a big reason they were sold because they were cutting into Pepsi's market share.  We are a small team but can do good for a sponsor.

Benning's fourth-place ties his best career ARCA finish when he scored fourth at DuQuoin Fairgrounds last season.


While ARCA drivers were getting their suits zipped up and climbing into their racecars on Saturday, Ryan Hemphill was in street clothes jogging to make it through the gate under the flagstand.  No, he wasn't running late for practice.  In fact, he wasn't running at all.  The man who has won three times in ARCA this year wasn't competing at South Boston.  Hemphill's contract with Chip Ganassi's Driver Development Program has him only running the superspeedway races.
Hemphill said he was frustrated not being behind the wheel, but the 22-year old got a chance to see the race that he was missing from a different perspective.  Hemphill was invited to join Mike Hogwood and Dan Pardus in the booth for SPEED Channel's telecast of the race.

“It was fun,” said Hemphill after the race.  “Those guys do an excellent job.  It really opened my eyes.  It's a lot different than you think it is when you are just sitting there watching it on TV.  The way they work together and make it exciting for the TV is really impressive.  I kind of felt a little weird sitting up there putting in my two cents worth because they were really good at what they do.
“We just tried to get around all of the wrecks tonight and unfortunately we got involved in one,” said Bell.  “We had a real good car though.  I couldn't be happier. I think we will be one to look for in the coming races.” 

With the great finish and the fact Ryan Hemphill was in the television booth, TJ was able to extend his lead atop the rookie standings.

“Big picture, I guess AJ had some problems and Hemphill didn't run, so we picked up some points on them. The big picture is that we are going for this Rookie of the Year. We want to stay in the top group in the championship points as well.”


South Boston's ARCA 200 was all about hangin in there. Although Joe Cooksey's car looked like it had been through a war, with all four corners damaged,  he survived for a fifth-place finish. And nobody was happier about it than Joe.

“Don't ya just love South Boston?” said Cooksey.  “That was fun man. Look at this thing. Call the insurance man. We hit the front we hit the back. We hit 'em all. We got a lapped down getting tangled with a lapped car. If not for that we might have been third.  I love South Boston.  Racecar drivers drive racecars. We will drive anywhere.  I love this place.  Heck, we'll run anywhere, this is ARCA!”
“We got in a wreck there with Gerhart and they put us a lap down,” said a disappointed Fike.  “I don't know how ARCA does that.  I haven't seen the replay there. Gerhart spun and I went high to miss him. I don't know if the leader was right there.  I don't know what ARCA saw.  I didn't even think the leader was close. I've gotta look at the replay before I judge it.

“We lost fourth gear after losing a lap and we still ended up ninth. A good run but frustrating without fourth gear and knowing what it could have been..”

Mark Gibson said he “messed up” after qualifying 16th at South Boston.  Then in the race he couldn't get the car woed down and was caught up in a wreck which put him a lap down.  Then, after falling two laps down Gibson just paced around and wound up  with one heck of a finish.
“Two laps down is bad, but we had those long green runs.  Kimmel was actually the only one to lap us.  We didn't change tires.  Once we got two laps down we figured there was no reason to put new tires on it.  200 laps on one set of tires and finished eight isn't too bad of a night.”

Gibson became ARCA's newest “Million Dollar Man” last week at Michigan International Speedway, joining Frank Kimmel and Tim Steele as the only members of the exclusive club of those who have earned over one million dollars in their ARCA career.

Its said that in life, you should never give up.  Now that may sound cliché, but for North Carolina driver Tony Quarles it couldn't be any more true at South Boston.

Quarles went out in ARCA practice and looped his #38 in turn one making slight contact with the concrete.  Then in qualifying, Quarles spun again.  As if that weren't enough, Quarles went around five-times during the race for a grand total of seven times on the day.  That is not good, but what is good is that the persistence shown by the former Laurens County Speedway champ, landed him a statistically impressive 16th place finish at races end.

Quarles' first spin in practice came close to ending his day at Sobo. (51 Photos)
Gibson may be worth a million but he sure did
save some dough in the tire dept.  (51 Photo)
TJ Bell is puttin together some steady runs in ARCA, is a win around the corner?  (51 Photos)
Hemphill admits he felt a little out of place on the other side of the tv deal.  (51 Photos)
Norm Benning may not have the fanciest lookin' ride, but the veteran sure does get a lot out of a little.   (51 Photos)