ARCA RE/MAX Series Veteran Gerhart Happy To Be Back On Track at MIS A.J. Fike Leads Open Testing at MIS BROOKLYN, Mich. -- There were several drivers who were excited about circling the two-mile Michigan International Speedway oval on Monday,...
ARCA RE/MAX Series Veteran Gerhart Happy To Be Back On Track at MIS
A.J. Fike Leads Open Testing at MIS
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- There were several drivers who were excited about circling the two-mile Michigan International Speedway oval on Monday, but none more than ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Bobby Gerhart, as he took his first laps back on track since Daytona in the ARCA RE/MAX open test session in preparation for the June 19 Flagstar 200 at MIS.
Gerhart was second among ten drivers, behind only A.J. Fike, and marked his return to the track from a torn hamstring which occurred, at all places, in the parking lot of his hotel while playing touch football prior to the season-opening race in Daytona. He went on to win the Daytona pole and ran the race before getting back home and realizing it was much worse than initially thought.
Veteran USAC Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown racer Fike led the way with a speed of 178.660 mph. Fike is running the full ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule for 1995 champion and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series veteran Andy Hillenburg.
Even though Fike was quickest, there's no doubt Gerhart was the most excited about getting behind the wheel at MIS.
"It's a big culture shock," said Gerhart. "It's like any other sport because it's hard to be away for a certain amount of time and be as good as you maybe once were, or can be."
Gerhart has been a long time racer, making his first of two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starts at MIS in 1985 and 1986, along with 12 MIS ARCA RE/MAX Series starts, which includes one pole, but that win at MIS has eluded him over the years.
"I've had some great opportunities to win here and it's just never come together," added Gerhart. We've always run good here and we've had a strong group of top fives. We're just going to stay at it until we go to victory lane."
It would also be safe to say that Gerhart enjoys his annual trip to MIS and figures it's a perfect place to make his ARCA RE/MAX Series return in the June 19 Flagstar 200.
"This is one of the best races to be in from a drivers standpoint because the track is so racey, " said Gerhart. "The cars are usually in a good group and we've had some good cars here. It's a place where you have to do a little bit of homework because you're running a little bit of a harder tire and the line to be good is a little bit shorter. I enjoy being here because I really like this place and always have."
Even though he suffered the injury in February at Daytona, it almost seems like the break his fledgling team needed, as he's been able to team up with Hendrick Motorsports to put up and coming driver Blake Feese in the car for development. The partnership worked right out of the gate as Feese won in Gerhart's car in his first ARCA RE/MAX Series start at Nashville. Later this year, Gerhart will continue working with Hendrick to develop Feese and two other drivers, Boston Reid and Kyle Krisiloff, in races at Toledo, Kentucky and Kansas.
"A great opportunity has come our way," said Gerhart. "It's certainly an honor by any team to be called by someone the size of Hendrick Motorsports and be offered the opportunity with an organization that, I can tell you, starts right from the top."
The move has injected life into his under-budgeted operation and has been able to put him and the Hendrick development drivers in excellent equipment.
"It's a great opportunity because we have some very young aggressive drivers and we're putting them in fabulous equipment," he added. "In this stage of my career we decided to do it for a lot of reasons, mostly to make us better as a team and learn more. And out of the box we got a win in our first run."
With the new support from Hendrick, Gerhart seems as confident as ever for success when he returns for the Flagstar 200 in June.
"I think anybody who comes through that (ARCA) garage will be looking to win a pole and the race and I think we're in that category."
Gerhart and the rest of the ARCA RE/MAX Series will return on Saturday, June 19 for the Flagstar 200. For tickets and information regarding the upcoming race season at MIS, log on to www.MISpeedway.com, or call the MIS ticket hotline at 1-800-354-1010.
<pre> Unofficial Best times from Monday's ARCA RE/MAX Series open test at MIS:
1. No. 11 A.J. Fike 40.39 178.660 mph 2. No. 5 Bobby Gerhart 40.54 177.780 mph 3. No. 64 Brack Maggard 40.63 177.340 mph 4. No. 65 Vern Slagh 40.75 176.900 mph 5. No. 38 Phil Bozell 40.96 176.040 mph 6. No. 6 C.W. Smith 41.12 175.180 mph 7. No. 75 Michael Simko 41.86 172.250 mph 8. No. 83 James Hollenbeck 41.90 171.840 mph 9. No. 64 Walter Brannen 42.00 171.430 mph 10. No. 82 Mike Garrity 42.13 171.020 mph