After the three-day open test at Daytona earlier this month, ARCA Series drivers Bobby Gerhart, Tom Hessert, Sean Corr and Chad McCumbee are heading to Talladega Superspeedway to continue to prepare for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona on Saturday February 12th.
Gerhart, a Lebanon, Pennsylvania native, has won the Daytona race six times so he knows the type of preparation that goes into winning it. This is something that he has done each year for awhile now with brother and crew chief Bill Gerhart.
“We’re taking just one car to the test,” Bill Gerhart told the ARCA Racing Network. “It’s the car we’re going to race at Daytona. It’s actually last year’s Daytona spare. We’ve practiced and tested the car, but we’ve never raced it. But when we took it back for the test (at Daytona) it out-performed last year’s winner (car). We built the car new; we’ve just never raced it. Sometimes it happens that way. With the new paving, the track just came to the car. We finally have most of the bugs out of it. We finally got it to go.”
Looking at the test speeds from Daytona, a lot of people have not paid any attention to Gerhart via being mid-pack, though that doesn’t work the No. 5 team.
“We’re not concerned about that at all,” Bill Gerhart said. “You can take all that speed from the test and throw it out the window. Let me put it to this way. Last year, it was the same thing. We came out of the test 28th fastest. We went back for the race and qualified eighth with the same speed we tested at. What’s that tell you?”
As a result, the car they are taking to the test and in essense running Daytona is the car that they felt comfortable with during the test.
“From what we saw in the drafting session, Bobby was able to pass with ease,” Bill Gerhart said. “We were stunned. Out leading the pack, nobody could pass him. I think this year’s race pace could be a half-second faster. Four car packs in the test were running last year’s race pace. Imagine what it will be this year with 20 in a pack.”
For Gerhart Racing, they have decided to focus on comfort and the race rather than speed since from the test, it was clear the Toyotas had the best single car speed runs, led by the Toyotas from Venturini Motorsports.
“Do I think we’ll contend for the pole? I don’t think so, not against the Toyotas; but can we contend for the win? Absolutely,” Bill Gerhart said. “If we’re still happy with the way our car is handling in tomorrow’s test we may load up after 10 laps and head for home. We actually made some rear suspension adjustments after the Daytona test, so we think we’re going to be even better. But if our car is going to perform like we think it’s going to, we won’t need a lot of laps tomorrow. Just head for home, do the final paint work, decal it, and we’ll be ready to go.
“Last year’s winning car was designed for the bumps and a slick track. But this year, the game has completely changed, so we had to make some changes. Our Lucas Oil-Slick Mist Chevrolet is going to be very good. It’s going to be a hell of a race; I can promise you that.”
In 15 starts at Daytona, the series veteran has six wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s and an average finish of 6.1 while leading 401 laps out of the 1141 laps he has run. Gerhart has only one other ARCA Series win which came at Daytona’s sister track, Talladega.