Story By: CHARLES KRALL / ARCA – LEBANON, PA – The 2020 ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway is just five weeks away, and just like he has for the last 32 seasons, Lebanon, Pennsylvania’s Bobby Gerhart plans on being there.
An eight-time Daytona winner, Gerhart has his Daytona fleet prepped and ready to roll. The ARCA car is ready to put on the truck for pre-season testing and a new NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series entry is ready to roll too.
But there is one major change to the plan. Gerhart himself isn’t planning on being behind the wheel.
“I guess you could say I got the greatest Christmas gift of all,” Gerhart said in a recent phone interview. “I was at home and wasn’t feeling well and drove myself to the doctor. When I got there they said I had a pretty serious heart attack. It could have been a matter of five minutes or five hours, but had I waited, it’s pretty likely it would not have ended up as well as it did. I still have a very long road to go but I have been given a second chance here and for that I am very lucky and very grateful.”
The 1988 Bounty Rookie of the Year plans on staying involved in the sport as a team owner and driver coach. With the change in his status coming so late in the off-season, he is hoping something will fall into place to allow the BGR team to make another run at Daytona victory.
“It’s awfully late in the going, we know that,” he said. “But we have really great equipment ready to go. All we need is a driver to plug in and we can go win Daytona. We’ve done programs like this in the past with drivers like Kyle Krisiloff and Blake Feese. We have a great record of success at Daytona and working with other drivers so we’re hoping even with just a few weeks to go we can find someone who wants to go race. We’ll look at any opportunity, from one-race deals to partial season deals to a full season deal. We know we can be an asset to someone who is looking to go and run up front at Daytona. We are going to work hard to keep these race team going.”
While ready to take on the new challenges, there is still a touch of sadness to have to step out of the seat this close to the start of the season for the nine-time series winner.
“I guess we can say I am stepping out of the seat immediately due to health issues,” Gerhart said. “It’s maybe not the way I envisioned it but at the same time I feel like I was given a gift with the way it all went down. I travel all over the country, not just with racing but buying and selling big rigs for work. Had that happened when I was away from home, who knows if I would have decided to drive myself to the nearest hospital and get checked out.
“I never felt any symptoms. I don’t eat fried foods and I don’t eat a lot of red meat. I’ve never had high blood pressure. I just won the genetic lottery I suppose. But with the way it all went down versus the way it could have I got really, really lucky.”
The annual two-day pre-season open test at Daytona International Speedway is set for next Friday and Saturday, January 10 and 11 with Sunday, January 12 reserved as a rain date. ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring from all on-track sessions throughout the weekend.