Daytona: Race report

DAYTONA BEACH FL -- Bobby Gerhart is steadily becoming the king of ARCA RE/MAX restrictor plate racing. He's also pretty good at being in the right place at the right time. Gerhart, in his own JamesAuto.com-Truck World Pontiac, raced his...

DAYTONA BEACH FL -- Bobby Gerhart is steadily becoming the king of ARCA RE/MAX restrictor plate racing. He's also pretty good at being in the right place at the right time.

Gerhart, in his own JamesAuto.com-Truck World Pontiac, raced his way into the lead in time to win the rain-shortened Discount Auto Parts 200 Sunday afternoon at Daytona Int'l Speedway. The Lebanon, Pennsylvania veteran, who pitted out of sequence with the leaders, was on top the leader board when the second of two rain showers engulfed the 2.5-mile superspeedway as the field completed its 52nd lap. With NASCAR's Bud Shoot Out and live Television commitments looming in the near future, ARCA race officials stopped the event for good after completing 54 of 80 laps as heavy rains continued.

Gerhart gambled his future on an early race caution on lap 20 in an apparent move to set himself up to go the distance if necessary. "Our window, after calculations yesterday, believe it or not, was 60 (laps)," said Gerhart after the race. "I could imagine from the outside pitting on lap 20, when I was the lone ranger, it looked like the wrong thing to do. But I think that if this race would have gone non-stop, I was where I needed to be. This car really liked a light fuel load. The last 10 laps on a run were the fastest by far so I wanted to be empty at the end of the race. But what a special day, not only for my brother Billy (crew chief), but also for my dad who I got to take to victory lane at Daytona. It doesn't get any bigger than that."

Gerhart was also where he needed to be to claim ARCA RE/MAX Series victories at Daytona in 1999 and at Talladega in 2001 when both events finished under caution. Regardless, the three-time superspeedway winner led 36 laps on Sunday, by far, more than any other.

With 33 cars still on the lead lap at the conclusion, Arvada, Colorado veteran Rick Carelli was among the front pack all the way and finished second in the RE/MAX Int'l Chevrolet with defending champion Frank Kimmel trailing in third in the Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford. Twenty-two year old rookie Chad Blount impressed all with a solid fourth place finish in Todd Braun's unsponsored Dodge in his career-first Daytona start. Damon Lusk, who led 12 laps in the Dynatek Pontiac, was equally impressive finishing fifth recording his career-best Daytona finish.

Outside polesitter Billy Venturini jumped into the lead at the start when Old Milwaukee Pole Award winner Chase Montgomery fell back. Montgomery, who would soon learn that his Pontiac was plagued with miss-matched plus wires, fell to the rear of the field before the correction was made on pit road. Fourth place qualifier Jason Jarrett also fell back at the start with an equalized tire issue. Venturini led just one lap before Gerhart took over to lead laps two through 19. Under caution for debris, Gerhart made his only pit stop handing the lead to Lusk on lap 20 who led through lap 31. Sixteen-year-old Shelby Howard shocked the world by racing his Lucas Oil Pontiac into the lead from the 18th starting position to lead laps 32 through 36 before the first rain shower blanketed the speedway bringing out the red flag. Back under green approximately 40 minutes later, Gerhart, after everyone else had cycled through pit stops, found himself back up front and in position to overhaul Howard on the 37th circuit. From there, with Carelli, Kimmel, Blount and Lusk lined up in his mirror, Gerhart held on to the lead long enough to claim the top prize. Both Jarrett and Montgomery lost a lap with their aforementioned troubles. However, both drivers got their laps back and were racing towards the front when the rains came. Jarrett wound up finishing 18th with Montgomery finishing 21st.

Two-time Daytona ARCA 200 winner Andy Hillenburg raced from the 22nd starting position to finish sixth in the Llumar Window Film Chevrolet ahead of Richard Mitchell who finished seventh in the Coach USA Pontiac. Rookie Nate Monteith finished eighth in the King Pharmaceuticals Pontiac with Justin Labonte trailing in ninth in an unsponsored Kerry Scherer Dodge. Laurel, Mississippi driver Robert Burroughs completed the top-ten finishers in his own unsponsored Pontiac.

Todd Bowsher raced his father Jack Bowsher's United Express Line-LL&S Development Ford from 41st to 14th in the final running order earning the Hoosier Performance Tire Hard Charger honors while Gerhart earned the Loctite Halfway Leader award.

CURRENT TOP-10 ARCA RE/MAX SERIES POINTS: 1. Bobby Gerhart 240; 2. Rick Carelli 220; 3. Frank Kimmel 215; 4. Chad Blount 210; 4. Damon Lusk 210: 6. Andy Hillenburg 200; 7. Richard Mitchell 195; 8. Nate Montieth 190; 9. Justin Labonte 185; 10. Robert Burroughs 180.

-arca-

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Chad Blount , Richard Mitchell , Robert Burroughs , Chase Montgomery , Andy Hillenburg , Bobby Gerhart , Jason Jarrett , Justin Labonte , Shelby Howard , Rick Carelli , Billy Venturini , Damon Lusk , Todd Bowsher