Gerhart family celebrates 50 years of racing in '03; and it starts at Daytona

Gerhart family celebrates 50 years of racing in '03; and it starts at Daytona

LEBANON PA (2-1-03)  It all started on the dirt tracks of Pennsylvania in 1954, when Bobby Gerhart Sr. and Deacon Gerhart competed in their first full season of racing at Silver Springs Speedway. Little did they realize, this would be the foundation of a racing tradition that would take the Gerhart’s from the dirt tracks of Pennsylvania to the high banks of Daytona.

Now, second generation driver Bobby Gerhart, steering his family into their 50th season of racing, will attempt to win his third Daytona ARCA 200 in his 25th year of competition.

To commemorate the special occasion, a special silver and white paint scheme with gold metallic will adorn the sheet metal of his #5 Pontiac Grand Prix for this year's Daytona ARCA classic. 

The team is coming off a fantastic Daytona test session in December, with the fastest time among some-30 ARCA RE/MAX Series drivers who tested at the renowned 2.5-mile superspeedway.

"My ARCA RE/MAX Series win at Daytona in 1999 was the highlight event of my life," said the second generation Gerhart. "But, it was great to win another Discount Auto Parts 200 at Daytona last year." Often dubbed as the "Restrictor Plate King" of ARCA, Gerhart also steered his way into victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway in 2001 and won the Old Milwaukee Pole award at Talladega in 2002.

"It's more difficult to set the car up for a restrictor plate race but, when you win, it's all worth while. This, being our family's 50th season overall is a huge deal for us; and just puts more on the line. But if we can pull it off (a win at Daytona) it would mean the world to me, my brother (Billy), my Dad who was with us in Daytona last year for our victory, the whole family. If we were ever going to win our third, this would be the year; and I honestly believe we've got the package to do it."

Gerhart's career-best ARCA RE/MAX Series points finishes were 3rd in 1999 and 5th in 2000. In addition to being the ARCA Rookie of the Year in '88, Gerhart, with his brother Billy as crew chief, has 33 top-5 and 70 top-10 finishes in 165 career starts. His best superspeedway finishes since '88 other than his wins at Daytona & Talladega are 2nd at Daytona in 2000, 3rd at Talladega in '97, 4th at Pocono in ’02, 4th at MIS in ’98, 4th at Texas in ’98 & Ô91, 5th at Kentucky & Talladega in 2000, 5th at Lowe’s & MIS in ’99 and 5th at Pocono in ’02, ’97 & Ô96. Mixed in with Gerhart's ARCA career are 28 NASCAR Winston Cup starts. 

Best known for his perpetual strength on the superspeedways, Gerhart has to acknowledge that he has become most comfortable racing on the restrictor plate speedways.

"You have to try harder, but the win makes it all ok; but for us, a victory at Daytona is as big as it gets; it's our super bowl."

The Gerhart's have selected a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix body style for the upcoming Daytona event. In addition, brothers' Bobby and Billy are fielding a second Pontiac for Indianapolis, Indiana open-wheeler Tony Ave with sponsorship from the non-profit United Disabilities Services Company (UDS) of Lancaster, PA. The Bobby Gerhart Racing (BGR) team has formed a partnership to assist the UDS in a marketing venture that will help people with disabilities in Pennsylvania. The UDS logo will be prominently displayed on Ave's red and white #7 Pontiac. Ave, in one career RE/MAX Series start, finished 4th last year at Chicagoland Speedway after starting 3rd.

All that said, the Gerhart's are headed to Daytona as the defending winners. Should Gerhart win again this year he would be the only driver to win consecutive ARCA RE/MAX Series races at Daytona and would join ARCA legend and 6-time national champion driver Iggy Katona as the only three time winners of the ARCA 200 at Daytona.

Returning to Daytona with Gerhart are sponsors JAMES CHEVROLET of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and A.T. CONSTRUCTION of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.

The Advance Discount Auto Parts 200 at Daytona, which serves as a preamble for the Winston Cup Bud Shootout, rolls off at 4 pm eastern Saturday, February 8. The event will be telecast LIVE on SPEED Channel at 4.