Gerhart Setting Plans In Action
February 4, 2009 | 2:01 P.M. EST
Instead, he spends the time working to prepare the best car possible for the ARCA RE/MAX Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.
The extra effort Gerhart spends on his superspeedway program in the offseason, and throughout the year, has paid off for the veteran driver of the No. 5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet. Gerhart is in the hunt for a sixth Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona victory.
Gerhart won three consecutive Daytona races from 2005 to 2007. He also won the season opener in 2002 and 1999.
"Right now, our sole focus is Daytona. This is, and always will be, the most important race to me," Gerhart said. "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'm not going to Daytona to run second."
Since his first victory at Daytona in 1999, Gerhart has only scored outside the top 10 once - 14th in 2003. From 1999-2008 his average finish at the 2.5-mile superspeedway is 3.7.
With his five victories, Gerhart holds the record for the most ARCA victories at Daytona. He is also the only Daytona winner to have won consecutive races at the track.
Gerhart realizes that his success at the track doesn't lend itself to his likeability among his fellow competitors.
"I know when I come here I become a very unpopular guy. In a way, it's going to sound odd, but that's a pretty big compliment," Gerhart said.
"I think everyone in ARCA is coming to terms with just how important Daytona is," Gerhart sadi, "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."
To that end, Gerhart saw some stiff competition when he tested at both Daytona Int'l Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in the offseason.
Over 50 drivers tested in December at Daytona. Bobby Gerhart Racing was one of the last teams to leave the test. A lot of teams only tested for two days of the three day test.
"If there was five days, I would be here for all of them," Gerhart said. "We try to get here first and we're always the last to leave. That lesson was taught to me a long time ago."
Despite his commitment to mastering Daytona, Gerhart failed to top any of the testing sessions there in December. He also wasn't fast enough on any day to break into the top 10 during drafting sessions.
"We had a great Daytona test," Gerhart said, following the test. "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 2007, but we have a new one too that we're not finished beating on yet, so it's possible that could change."
Weeks later in January, Gerhart topped the field of eight drivers who posted times at Talladega Superspeedway - topping the charts with a speed of 184.552 mph. Gerhart has one win at Talladega (2001).
He used the Talladega test to gather information about the team's newest engines.
Gerhart will show fans what car he chose when he takes to the track with the other teams for the weekend's sole practice session, Feb. 5 at Noon (ET).
Qualifying for Saturday's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 is at Noon (ET) on Feb. 6.
The Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 takes the green flag on Feb. 7 at 4:15 p.m. (ET) with Live television coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (ET) on SPEED.