Gerhart Way Too Tough In Talladega TALLADEGA AL - ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Bobby Gerhart, powered-up with an extremely potent Pontiac, capped off a perfect week at Talladega Superspeedway with a huge victory Saturday afternoon in the Food...
Gerhart Way Too Tough In Talladega
TALLADEGA AL - ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Bobby Gerhart, powered-up with an extremely potent Pontiac, capped off a perfect week at Talladega Superspeedway with a huge victory Saturday afternoon in the Food World 300. The Lebanon, Pennsylvania driver, who had just recently switched from Chevy to Pontiac, was quickest in both practice sessions beforehand, won the Old Milwaukee Pole Award and dominated the race to earn his 2nd-career superspeedway victory.
"Winning at Talladega is very special; I've been coming here since at least '88," said Gerhart. "That Pontiac was unbelievable today. It was balanced unbelievable; I think we could have run the whole race on a set of tires, and I told Bill (brother and crew chief) we could have the way the car felt throughout the first long extended run. I was barely turning the wheel, and when you do that you're not taking any rubber off, and I really felt we could have gone the whole distance on one set of tires."
Gerhart, in his own Garden Spot Auto Auction Pontiac, pitted twice throughout the 300-mile race for fuel while taking on left-side tires on the first stop, and right-side tires on the second. Although he was never without lead-lap cars lined up directly behind in typical, tight Talladega fashion, none was able to mount a charge in time to make the pass. In all, Gerhart led a whopping 105 of 113 laps in capturing the well-deserved win albeit under caution.
With less than five laps remaining, Gerhart had a mirror full of Bob Strait, Rick Carelli and Jason Jarrett all of whom were no doubt getting ready to take their final shot at the eventual winner. But then Jarrett's Biomet Pontiac began to drastically slow. Jarrett, who was apparently out of fuel, coasted to stop at the bottom of turn two as the leaders raced back to the stripe to receive the caution flag with two laps remaining. From there, Strait and Carelli could do nothing more than watch Gerhart coast, under caution, beneath the checkered flag as the winner. Strait, in Mark Thompson's Midway Island Ford, finished second with Carelli, in the RE/MAX Int'l Chevy, finishing third. Carelli, who switched engines the day before after breaking his primary motor in happy hour, charged from the last row to earn his podium finish. Andy Kirby, in a Tennessee Pride-sponsored Ford Thunderbird, was in the lead draft all afternoon and finished a solid fourth ahead of rookie Richard Mitchell who steered the Coach USA-Mountaineer Gaming Pontiac home in fifth. It was Mitchell's second top-five finish of the season in just eight starts.
Six caution flags, mostly for minor incidents, slowed the race for 27 laps while the majority of the event was run under green flag conditions. Outside of Gerhart, Fowlerville, Michigan driver Rick Markle, who finished 14th, led six laps during pit stop exchanges while Franklin, Tennessee's Randal Ritter led two.
Robby Benton, in the MAC Tools Ford, recorded his career-best finish in sixth in front of Chad Blount who raced the Braun Mobility Products Dodge Intrepid from 18th to seventh in the final running order earning the Thermo-Tec Cool Move award as a result. Laurel, Mississippi driver Robert Burroughs finished eighth in the Robison Tire-Cooper Tire Chevrolet with Casey Mears, in his career-first start, trailing in ninth in the TropArtic Pontiac. Cedar Bluff, Alabama driver Tina Gordon, also making her career-first start, wowed the crowd, estimated at 65,000, with a fifth place qualifying effort followed up by a respectable tenth place finish in the Sticks 'N' Stuff Ford Thunderbird.
Gerhart's earnings totaled $28,695, which also included the Old Milwaukee Pole Award, the Pork Producers Pole-Win bonus, the Loctite Halfway Leader honors, the Quarter Master Comin' Thru in the Clutch award and the RJS Safety honors. Todd Bowsher, who finished 20th, won the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger award after starting 41st. Justin Labonte, in a Dodge Intrepid, won the ARCA Outside Pole Qualifier award and was a factor for the win until an extended stay on pit road cost the third-generation driver two laps. Labonte would return to finish 17th. CW Smith, Damon Lusk and Stuart Kirby spent a good bit of time in the top-five throughout the afternoon before late-race fuel stops under green eliminated any chance for a top-ten finish. This year's ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel experienced rear-end trouble in the latter stages and soldiered to the finish in 18th.
CURRENT POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 6585, 2) Jason Jarrett 5450, 3) Andy Belmont 5120, 4) Ron Cox 4665, 5) Norm Benning 4365, 6) Todd Bowsher 4310, 7) Chuck Weber 4275, 8) Donny Morelock 4155, 9) Tim Steele 4095, 10) Mike Buckley 3195.