|DAYTONA BEACH FL (1-20-09) - Bobby Gerhart Racing announced today that it has re-signed with Lucas Oil for the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series season.
Gerhart, renowned for his record five wins at Daytona, will debut the Lucas Oil "Slick Mist" brand on his no. 5 Chevy Monte Carlo at Daytona in the 46th running of the ARCA RE/MAX Series at the "World Center of Racing" in February. Lucas Oil is also sponsoring the race, known as the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona.
"The 2009 season marks our sixth consecutive season with Lucas Oil," said Gerhart, whose five Daytona wins include three consecutive in '05, '06 and '07. "We're very proud of our association with Lucas Oil, a company whose longstanding race heritage speaks for itself. We feel like we've given them a good home. Our stuff is very competitive; it's racy looking and provides the right image to promote their products. The wins at Daytona are obviously paramount to the overall success of the partnership."
After finishing fourth at Daytona in 2008, Gerhart hopes to get back on track with an unprecedented sixth Daytona triumph. Gerhart's sponsors are hoping for the same.
"The Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA race at Daytona is huge for us," said Tom Bogner, Lucas Oil Motorsports Manager. "It's a high-profile deal to be associated with Bobby Gerhart Racing and the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Daytona. It's even more exciting because many of the new Lucas Oil products have been developed in Bobby's car over the years, which makes our success at Daytona even more gratifying. Slick Mist is a newer product for us, and we're working to make it a household name on the shelf. We can't think of a better way to kick things off than with Bobby Gerhart at Daytona."
In addition to testing at Daytona in December, the Gerhart clan is headed to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for one final restrictor plate hurrah.
"We had a great Daytona test," added 50-year-old Gerhart. "We came out with some very positive info. I'm pretty sure we're going to race with the same car we won with in '07, but we have a new one too that we're not finished beating on yet, so it's possible that could change.
"Now we're headed to Talladega. There are a couple reasons we do that. Our newest engine packages aren't in the cars till now. We took what we raced last year to the Daytona test, which gives us good aero information, but now we need to test the new power combination and look for all the speed we can - combine the two (tests) and go the ‘beach'.
"Overall, the information we've gleaned from the two tests has worked for us, so we're not going to try and fix it. We'll be testing Joey Coulter at Talladega too. In fact, the Coulter crew is here in the shop (Lebanon, PA) wrenching on the car right now. We've got room for more testers at Talladega if anyone's interested."
With increasingly competitive fields at Daytona mixed with ARCA's best and a good share of fulltime Cup teams, victories at the historic superspeedway are factually harder to achieve. Gerhart is well aware of those challenges.
"It's amazing really. It went from just a few teams that took it serious to a bunch of teams that took it serious. I think everyone in ARCA is coming to terms with just how important Daytona is, and I think our success there had a lot to do with that. There are a lot more ultra-competitive restrictor plate teams now than there were five years ago. I think we helped make everyone realize what we've always had at Daytona and how important it is for the teams, the sponsors and the series."
In addition to the increasingly competitive restrictor plates teams in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, Gerhart recognizes other outside factors that are adding even more complicating circumstances - mainly, the economy.
"I think it's going to be a very challenging year for all the competitors; it's something we're all going to face this year. It's going to be extremely hard, in this environment, to race the way we want, and need, to race. I've got our team pulled back as far as I can to be as competitive as we've been.
"We can't say for sure right now how many races we're going to be able to run; it's still up in the air. Obviously, we want to run for the championship; I still feel like I have it in me to get the job done. But you can't run for the championship if your program can't be what it needs to be. If you look at the last four or five years out there, it's becoming quite clear, financially speaking, what it takes to run for the championship. I suppose if the racing gods line up just right all year long, you can do it for much less; but anymore, the financial side cannot be your Achilles heel. To win a championship here anymore, the financial side cannot be your weakness.
"I've been swinging my own bat for a long time. I'm obviously very involved financially myself. And with my businesses at home, all with their own challenges, it's tough to keep everything going. Having said all that, we should be as strong as we've ever been at Daytona. I can't wait to drive the rig through the gates. It's just what I need right now.
"I've always looked at our team as underdogs. Maybe that's part of our success; I don't know. I'm very realistic, especially when I'm looking at the budgets we have to work with compared to the Cup teams. I'd say we're tremendous underdogs.
"I mean if you look at the sheer facts...the amount of resources and engineering depth they have compared to what we have, it's a long shot that we'd even be in their league. I mean, we've never even been to the wind tunnel."
Gerhart, who was ARCA's Rookie of the Year in 1988, has been an integral part of the ARCA RE/MAX Series for more than 20 years. Remarkably, some of the people who started with Gerhart 20 years ago, are still with him.
"We're very fortunate. We have a support group that's vital to what we do. They give me the tools to make these cars what they are.
"Right now, our sole focus is Daytona. This is, and always will be, the most important race to me. And it has been for a long, long time. I know my team will do everything they humanly can to put me in a position to win. They understand how important this place is to me. I've been so blessed to win there five times. To win once is a blessing in itself, but five? It still blows my mind to think we've done that."
When asked about the possibility of winning a sixth time at Daytona, Gerhart said, "I'm not going to Daytona to run second."
Practice for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona is from 12 noon - 5:00 PM Thursday, February 5th with Pole Qualifying Friday at noon, February 6th followed by a final practice from 5:10 to 6:15 Friday afternoon. The 46th annual Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona, which precedes the Budweiser Shootout, is LIVE on SPEED at 4:00 PM ET Saturday, February 7th.