[media-credit name=”ARCARacing.com” align=”alignright” width=”345″][/media-credit]When the ARCA Racing Series hits Daytona International Speedway in February for its season opener, Bobby Gerhart will be after his ninth Daytona victory.
The 54-year-old took part of the test last weekend, ending up 23rd on the final speed chart. It may seem that Gerhart is out of the picture, however, that is where he typically tests. For his team, it’s not about speed; it’s about how well the car drafts.
“Testing for Daytona, in my opinion, is paramount to winning the race,” the Pennsylvania native said. “It’s very difficult to win there without testing, so if you want to win, you’ve got to get serious about testing.
“We do not utilize the test to promote ourselves. I’m not suggesting that it would be wrong to do so; I’m just saying we don’t concern ourselves with topping the charts at the test. All we do is all we’ve ever done – to try and make gains on a legitimate basis. We don’t feel the need or desire to get on top of the charts for promotional purposes.”
Gerhart says that they typically bring three cars to the test, testing different things and finding what works the best to run on the car that they’ve chosen. It’s all about research and development.
“We were fairly pleased at what we had at the test, but we never leave completely happy,” he said. “We used every inch of the test to learn. We got on the track as early as we could Friday morning and ran right up to late Sunday afternoon.”
Throughout the years, it’s become widely known that Gerhart places Daytona as the most important part of his racing program and that’s becuase Daytona is special to him.
“I was very vocal at a very young age that I would one day race here,” he said of when he was a kid. “In the back of my head, I kept telling myself I would win here too. It is such a privilege to race here, and I’ve never lost sight of that fact.
“We build cars exclusively for Daytona; they don’t go anywhere else. Everything else is off the plate. Even though Talladega is very similar to Daytona, we don’t mix the cars between the tracks. For me, there is Daytona, and then there is everywhere else.”
It’s no secret that it’s proven to be successful with his track record at Daytona while those teams that have just simply top the charts find themselves finishing behind the No. 5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet on race day.
Experience also plays a key role as the series’ 50th ARCA 200 presents Gerhart’s 26th consecutive start at Daytona.
“I came to this series at this track in 1988 to learn how to race,” he said. I keep coming back for the same thing, to learn how to race. You either keep learning, or lose. It’s always a step by step process for us. We do what makes me comfortable in the car; then we try and get the speed. From there, I drive by the seat of my pants. We never stop working on our car. You point the car in the right direction and let the car do most of the work. If it means coming up a lane, then you go where the car wants to go. You’ve got to get creative behind the wheel.”
There have been some rule changes going into this year, but Gerhart adds that it’s still Daytona and some things still apply so they can add that to their book.
While he’ll race the car on track, he will also drive the transporter to the track and back home.
“I love driving the rig to and from Daytona,” he said. “It takes me out of the office and puts me in a different environment. I get a lot of time to think. In those moments I put together my mental agenda to help prep for the race. And if you’re fortunate enough to win the race, the ride back is even more enjoyable. It’s too difficult to capture the moment in victory lane. It takes a while to download and process the enormity of that just happened. It usually starts sinking in on the ride home.”
Most recently, Lucas Oil asked Gerhart to showcase his winning racecar in their display booth at the recent IMIS trade show at the Indiana Convention Center.
“When you consider all the options that Lucas Oil has for IMIS, or any other show for that matter, this is truly an honor, not only for Bobby Gerhart Racing, but for ARCA as well,” Gerhart said. “This is what Daytona can do for you. It has always been the biggest prize, the biggest exposure, the biggest jewel this series has.”