Saturday, December 21 test day at Daytona

Bobby Gerhart looking to continue domination at Daytona. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Dec. 21, 2002) -- Bobby Gerhart doesn't take Daytona International Speedway for granted. He has posted five top-10 finishes, including two victories (1999...

Bobby Gerhart looking to continue domination at Daytona.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Dec. 21, 2002) -- Bobby Gerhart doesn't take Daytona International Speedway for granted.

He has posted five top-10 finishes, including two victories (1999 and 2002), in the last five Advance Discount Auto Parts 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series season openers at Daytona.

He also was second fastest after the first day of ARCA testing on Saturday at the "World Center of Racing" with a lap of 183.865 mph.

But Gerhart isn't overconfident when accessing his chances in the Feb. 8 Advance Discount Auto Parts 200.

"I always try to look at myself as an underdog all the time," Gerhart said. "I think that keeps me focused and keeps me digging pretty hard. I'll never come to one of these places and feel like I'm the guy to beat. I've never done that and I'll never start. It's just my nature.

"We work pretty hard for this place. I really love racing here at Daytona. It obviously has begun to show."

Billy Venturini was the fastest on Saturday with a speed of 184.034 mph. Rounding out the top five was Gerhart, Bob Strait (183.135), Vern Slagh (181.741) and Matt Hagans (181.605).

Gerhart has turned his team into one of the powerhouses at Daytona in ARCA. One of the main reasons for Gerhart's love affair with Daytona is that he enjoys working the draft on the famed 2.5-mile tri-oval.

"I'm sure golfers and tennis players have their favorites trying to win the Masters and trying to play at Wimbledon," Gerhart said. "This is it for a racer. You want to do well and you want to be at the top of your game and there's no better place to do it than here. That's what has done it for me.

"I remember the first time I came across the tri-oval in the mid-80s. It put goose bumps down the back of my arm. It did this morning. It just one of those places I really like. We've been fortunate enough to where it's been good for me."

In last year's Advance Discount Auto Parts 200, Gerhart clearly had one of the best cars in the field and led the final 18 laps before the 80-lap event was declared official on Lap 54 when the Speedway was blanketed with a second rain shower.

Both of Gerhart's victories at Daytona are memorable.

"It takes a couple of months for it to settle in," Gerhart said. "We work so hard to get to that point that you can't just switch gears and digest what you just did. Looking back at the last four or five years this team has had at a place like this, it's just magical."

Gerhart brought three cars with him to the test session - one Pontiac and two Chevrolets. He's not only working on his effort for February, but also helping rookies Bob Aiello, Tony Ave and Shanta Rhodes with their rookie orientation.

Besides competing in the Advance Discount Auto Parts 200 during Speedweeks 2003, Gerhart, a native of Lebanon, Penn., says there's a possibility he'll make a sixth attempt at making the field for the Feb. 16 Daytona 500 if sponsorship develops.

"It's my career dream to start the Daytona 500," said the 44-year-old Gerhart. "It's not over. I'm going to stay at it and try to do it as long as I feel like we can be competitive."

Testing for the Advance Discount Auto Parts 200 will conclude on Sunday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. A section of the Oldfield Grandstand will be open and free to the public with access through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.

Tickets for the Feb. 8 Advance Discount Auto Parts 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race and the inaugural nighttime running of the Budweiser Shootout are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.

<pre> Saturday's Top 10 ARCA RE/MAX Series Test Speeds 1. Billy Venturini 184.034 mph 2. Bobby Gerhart 183.865 3. Bob Strait 183.135 4. Vern Slagh 181.741 5. Matt Hagans 181.605 6. Keith Murt 181.076 7. Aaron Call 180.828 8. Ed Kennedy 180.335 9. Tony Ave 180.195 10. Jeff Spraker 179.759

-dis-

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Series ARCA