LEBANON, Pa. – Bobby Gerhart won’t be in the field when the ARCA Menards Series begins the season at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Feb. 8.
Gerhart, an eight-time winner of the ARCA opener at Daytona, recently suffered a heart attack. As a result, the 61-year-old Gerhart won’t be racing at Daytona after making 32-straight starts at the track.
“I guess you could say I got the greatest Christmas gift of all,” Gerhart told arcaracing.com. “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.”
During Gerhart’s lengthy racing career, which also included starts all three of NASCAR’s national divisions, he scored nine ARCA Menards Series wins, Eight of them came at Daytona, with his only other ARCA victory coming at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 2001.
Gerhart has run the full ARCA schedule three times during his career, with his best championship finish coming in 2006 when he finished second in the standings behind Frank Kimmel.
“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.”
Gerhart still plans to be at Daytona Int’l Speedway for the ARCA opener. He said he’s hoping to find someone to drive his familiar No. 5 when the season begins with the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire.
“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.”