Originally created 02/11/02

Gerhart gets break on gas



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Bobby Gerhart was emphatic his Pontiac didn't need any more gasoline to finish Sunday's Discount Auto Parts 200 for the ARCA Re/Max Series cars.

Good thing he didn't have to prove it.

Gerhart was leading when a second shower hit the Daytona International Speedway during the 80-lap race and ARCA officials declared him the winner 16 laps short of the scheduled finish.

"We've got guys who figured all that stuff out," the winner said. "Our window after calculations (for fuel), believe it or not, was 60 (laps, or 150 mles)."

Gerhart pitted on the 19th lap, which means he would have had to stretch his fuel mileage to 152 1/2 miles. Most teams said their limit was about 125 miles. The rain, however, made gas a mute point. Gerhart led a pack of five cars during what proved to be the final 18 laps. His pass of 16-year-old Shelby Howard on the 37th lap proved to be the best move of the race.

The first red flag for rain lasted for 27 minutes, 17 seconds and it came one lap past the halfway point that makes any abbreviated finishes official.

The second shower lasted less than two minutes, but it left huge puddles between the fourth turn and the finish line. ARCA officials immediately then threw the red and checkered flags at the same time with 54 of 80 laps completed. Gerhart swerved left and right in the final 18 laps to keep everyone behind him as rain approached.

"Before the race, Bobby was one of the drivers telling people not to block but he was blocking everybody out there," said Rick Carelli, who was second in a Chevrolet. He was doing what he had to do."

"I was doing everything I could do to keep those guys behind me," Gerhart said. "If they call that blocking, that's fine."

The rain apparently didn't allow the trailing pack of lead cars to develop a strategy against Gerhart. If they had joined in a nose-to-tail draft, they probably could have passed the leader since several cars in a group are faster than a single car because they can divide the wind resistance.

"I know Rick (Carelli) and Bobby (Gerhart) have tons of experience at places like this," said Frank Kimmel, whose Ford was third. "I was going to go with Rick if he was going to wave."

The rain ended that strategy, too.

"I thought it was the most-competitive ARCA race we've seen in years," Kimmel said. "Five, six, seven cars in the lead draft. I hate to shorten it for the fans, but the second (shower) came like a monsoon. We couldn't even see down in (turns) one and two. They made the right choice to stop the race."

The pole sitter, 18-year-old Chase Montgomery, had trouble from the start. He was bypassed by 11 other cars in the first half-mile of the race and he was all the way back in 26th after one circuit.

Gerhardt led twice of 36 laps, and he averaged 118.594 mph. The victory was worth $27,675.

The race is the biggest of the year for the Midwest-based series. Now it has to wait until March 9 for its next race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.