GERHART SR; PENNSYLVANIA LEGEND; TO BE INDUCTED INTO EMPA HALL OF FAME SATURDAY

GERHART SR; PENNSYLVANIA LEGEND; TO BE INDUCTED INTO EMPA HALL OF FAME SATURDAY

The following story on Bobby Gerhart, Sr. ran at arcaracing.com 3 years ago......Enjoy the Legend.............


Pennsylvania racers are legends. Since the invention of the automobile some of the greatest racing and racers were found in the Keystone State. 

Such venerable institutions like Williams Grove, Langhorne, Nazareth and Reading are forever etched in the history of racing annuals.

Wins at these tracks have propelled unknowns into immortality with fans still talking about their exploits even to this day. One of these drivers who bridged the gap between the post war Jalopies and today's state of the art racing machines, winning races in three different decades, was Lebanon, PA's Bobby Gerhart, Sr. 

"I started racing in 1953 with my brother Bill's 1935 Ford coupe at the Hilltop Speedway in Meyerstown," Bobby revealed. Actually his interest in racing spawned from a time when his father, William, Sr., a baker, used to take him to the races. "My father always supported me and my brothers racing activities. My brother Richard raced jalopies and my brother Eddie also did some racing." It took until 1956 when Bobby started driving for Curly Bowman of Bethel, PA, before he scored his first of an estimated 300 career wins. The following year Bobby's career really took off when he teamed with Ken Fortna and ran a six cylinder Plymouth against the Flathead Fords that were so prominent in racing during those days. "It was a real challenge running that car," Bobby mused. "I have a lot of memories, good memories. Believe it or not we won races, a lot of races, because the car was pretty high-class, and we did super with it."

After this team broke up Bobby decided to do his own program and from 1958 to 1960 he ran his own race car, driving a 1932 Class A Ford Coupe at Silver Springs and Susquehanna. In 1961 and 1962 he switched divisions and began running a modified against the Flatheads at Reading and then switched divisions again to run what was known as super Modifieds, a precursor of today's sprint car that is so much a part of racing in Pennsylvania. "Racing my own car really put a lot of pressure on me," Bobby recalls, "but at the same time I was more relaxed because, hey, if you dropped out or made a mistake I had nobody to answer to but myself."

In 1964, Bobby elected to give up his own team and drive for Bob Wertz. A decision that resulted in seven feature wins at Williams Grove, Selinsgrove and Susquehanna speedways. In 1966, he got the itch to go back to his own car, and this time he teamed up with perhaps one of the greatest and most recognized mechanic/engine builders of not only that period, but even today, that being Davey Brown, Sr. The duo built a homemade super-modified that carried Bobby to a third in points at Lincoln Speedway and the points championship at Susquehanna Speedway.

Bobby's success wasn't over looked by the rest of the Pennsylvania racing establishment. The following year Bobby was offered the ride in the potent Orlando and A.T. Consoli of Reading, PA, modified, a proven championship ride. Bobby quickly repaid his new owners for their confidence in his skills as by 1970 he had become the dominant driver at Reading Speedway, winning two point championships and becoming the leading feature winner for the next three seasons. In 1969 alone he notched 11 wins, then a record for one season at the track. In 1971, the team was forced to break up when Orlando was diagnosed with cancer which he succumbed to shortly after the breakup. Still, in a very short time period, with Bobby at the wheel, the team had scored nearly 40 victories, mostly at Reading, had won their largest single payoff of $4,300 by finishing second in the 1968 Race of Champions at Langhorne and in 1970 and 1971 Bob became the first driver to score back-to-back wins in the Lebanon Valley 200.

After the demise of the Orlando and A.T. Consoli Team, Bobby went back to fielding his own cars, garnering several wins. Mid-way through the 1973 season, Bobby was involved in a gut wrenching crash that saw his car cartwheel the length of Reading's home stretch. For the remainder of the year and all of 1974 Bobby couldn't get things going again. In 1975 he and his crew put together a potent Gremlin modified which he used to break out of his slump by edging his old friend, who also called Lebanon, PA home, Dick "Toby" Tobias in a real crowd pleaser staged at Reading. Throughout his racing career Bobby had a friendly, but intense rivalry with Toby. "It filled the stands," Bobby commented. Many recall Bobby's smooth driving style which made him a consistent winner despite competing at somewhat of a disadvantage, driving his carburetor-outfitted car against the norm for the period, fuel-injected cars. It was because of his insistence in using a carburetor that he was known as "Mr. Carb". In fact Bob was instrumental as perhaps anyone in modified stock car racing on selling both car owners and race promoters on carburetor usage in the division, which along with cubic inch limitations that were also advocated by him, have become the standard of today.

In 1976 Bobby duplicated his best Langhorne finish of eight years previous by finishing second to Gary Balough in another major race, the Schaefer 100 which was held in October at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY. It was at this same event, in 1980, that Bobby climbed into a race car for the last time.

Bobby Gerhart Sr.'s last year of competition was 1980. However, in July of 1997, Bobby Sr. buckled into an ARCA RE/MAX Series car from his son's stable and took some hot laps at Pocono Raceway turning some laps in the 140 mph range. Apparently the fire still burns.

Bobby Sr. plans to be in attendance for this years Discount Auto Parts ARCA 200 at Daytona. He would like nothing more than to greet his sons in victory lane on Feb. on February 10th. 

NOTE: Bobby Gerhart Jr recently completed Daytona testing for, not only the 2002 ARCA RE/MAX Series race, but the Daytona 500 as well. Gerhart Jr will be speaking this Saturday, January 19 at the EMPA press conference in Philadelphia PA. Later that evening, the 2nd-generation driver will be attending the EMPA banquet and awards ceremony where his father Bobby Sr. will be inducted into the EMPA Hall of Fame along with USAC stand-out Larry Dickson. Dale Earnhardt will also be posthumously inducted. 

Then it's back to superspeedway business for Gerhart Jr who'll be testing at Talladega Superspeedway January 25th & 26th. Gerhart Jr won the 1999 Daytona ARCA 200 as well as last year's Food World 300 at Talladega.

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