On to Talladega Testing for ARCA Vet Gerhart; Credits Danica for Daytona Win TOLEDO OH (3-18-10) - The Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Racing Series event from Daytona was the 16th highest rated sports cable program for the month of February, and...
On to Talladega Testing for ARCA Vet Gerhart; Credits Danica for Daytona Win
TOLEDO OH (3-18-10) - The Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA Racing Series event from Daytona was the 16th highest rated sports cable program for the month of February, and second highest rated cable motorsports show of the month.
And it's been pretty-well documented that Danica Patrick had something to do with that. According to six-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart, Patrick, who made her stock car debut in the ARCA race at Daytona, also had something to do with his victory.
"I really need to thank Danica Patrick," said Gerhart from his business and race shop in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
"All the eyeballs were looking somewhere else. I'm not saying they're all on me anyway, but I usually get quite a bit at Daytona. I didn't do one interview while I was there. No picture, nothing. It was the first time I went there and didn't get derailed on my thought process. It worked out very well for me."
After all, Gerhart got the big prize when the teams walked out the back gate after the race. And if Gerhart did no interviews at Daytona, it's been just the opposite ever since he left.
"I've done so many radio shows I've lost count. And when I got home, I did three or four TV shows, local morning shows. The whole area's abuzz."
While Gerhart, in part, credits Patrick for contributing to his momentous win at Daytona, ironically, the two never spoke a word to each other until both returned to the "World Center of Racing" for the NASCAR Nationwide Series event the following week.
"Interesting story. By the time I got to the driver's meeting (for the Nationwide race at Daytona) the room was pretty-much full. She (Patrick) got up, opened a nearby closet and got some chairs out for her and me. Then she said for all to hear, 'I wanna be right here because whatever this guy's got, I want it.
"I was very impressed with her - the way she handled it. She was very congratulatory, complimentary, very sincere. It was the first time we met, and it was nice. I appreciated it."
Patrick was also right behind Gerhart coming down pit road when Gerhart stopped for service during the Daytona race.
"My guys tell me that when she saw us come down pit road, she said, 'he just won the race'. Her crew came back on the radio and told her we had trouble; that the hood was up on the 5. But when we came back out and got out front, she came back and said, 'I don't see any trouble with the 5!'" But she was very complimentary."
And so was Gerhart's longtime friend Rick Hendrick.
"In typical Rick Hendrick fashion, he came to see me before the race, which he always does. He put his arm around me and said, 'Go get 'em Captain.' Then he said, 'I think the ship is yours to guide again.'
"For a guy like Rick Hendrick to come visit me before every Daytona race, to have the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization look at what we do, not just me, but this ARCA Racing Series as a whole, and give it that level of respect is huge. For me personally, it means a lot for Mr. Hendrick to take an interest in our program here. It's a real shot in the arm I'll tell you that - just what you need when you're heading into the biggest event of the year."
The next 'biggest event of the year' for Gerhart is Talladega Superspeedway, which means the Bobby Gerhart Racing (BGR) crew will be headed to Talladega next week for the two-day ARCA open test Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23 and 24. Gerhart, who won once at Talladega in 2001 from the pole in a red-white-and-blue-colored Pontiac Grand Prix, will join a healthy variety of teams planning to join BGR for the open test at Talladega. Surprisingly, Gerhart is not taking his Daytona race winning car along for the test.
"Our biggest emphasis will always be Daytona. Anything else is just that - something else. That is not to say that Talladega isn't important to BGR; it definitely is. The race is huge. But because Daytona is bigger for us, we put such a big emphasis on it, that we take our best and second best car to Daytona. Those two cars will never see Talladega. But we've got two great pieces for Talladega. We've made more changes to our Talladega cars than we've ever done before, so it's not like we're not throwing a lot at it.
"Daytona is just so big for our team, my sponsor Lucas Oil; we're already working on 2011. We're already on it.
"Quite honestly, the Daytona win is just now sinking in. I've had a lot of things happen right after the win. I lost my best friend Steve Melnick, who died right after we won the race. It really put a sad note on what was supposed to be a great time for the team. He supported my race program for years. We had been best friends for better than 20 years - it was tough to lose him.
"The events of the last couple of years came full circle for me - turning 50, the wreck at Pocono, my team crumbling before my very eyes. My guys going away, getting hired away; times were tough, economically, all the way around. I've been fortunate that I still have a great core group of guys that have been with me for years, but for the most part, at Daytona, we were fresh with new, young guys turning the wrenches. It was gratifying for me, neat to see, something to build on.
"But it was impossible for me to mentally grasp the whole thing right away. I had to let some things pass, before I could go back and revisit Daytona. It feels great; I can tell you that. And it's just now sinking in."
At 51 years young, Gerhart is still building BGR and has no plans on retiring.
"Retiring? Are you kidding? I want number seven at Daytona. I don't like the number six. As a matter of fact, I've invested in an effort that will be a deeper, stronger, much more fine-tuned restrictor plate effort than ever before. We're coming back in 2011 even better prepared than I've even been. We'll be as good as we can be."
Gerhart hopes to be as good as he can be at Talladega where he'll, not only be running in the ARCA 250 on Friday, April 23rd, but also be competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega Saturday, April 24th. Lucas Oil will be the primary sponsor on both efforts.
The ARCA 250 at Talladega, LIVE on SPEED at 5:00 PM ET, will be the 49th ARCA event at Talladega since the series' debut there in 1969.
On-track time for the upcoming Talladega ARCA open test will be from 9:00 am to 5:00 PM local time both Tuesday and Wednesday. Currently, 20 drivers are pre-entered for the open test, including former series champions' Frank Kimmel and Bill Baird.