When the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards pulls into Daytona International Speedway for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, there is one driver that is always a contender for the victory, whatever the circumstances. On Saturday (Feb. 12), that one driver came through once again. He also made it look really easy, when it really wasn’t.
The field was lead to the green by polesitter Ty Dillon and outside polesitter Kyle Fowler, both 18-year-olds making their first career starts, while Bobby Gerhart, one of the oldest drivers in the field at age 52, started his No. 5 Lucas Oil Slick Mist Chevrolet Impala in fifth.
Fowler jumped out to the lead to an early lead after Dillon got a bad start. The rest of the leaders followed single file.
On lap 4, the first caution flew for a single-car crash involving the No. 94 of Brett Hudson. Entering turn 3, the tread separated itself from Hudson’s left-rear tire. Hudson then spun right in front of Milka Duno and backed into the wall hard.
The rest of the leaders pitted under the yellow here with 60 to go and hunkered down for the run to the finish. Fowler had a terrible stop and then stalled while getting back underway, which effectively put him out of contention.
The results of the stops put Gerhart in the lead with Buescher in second, Licata third and Matt Merrell in fourth. From that point on, Gerhart kept the field single-file on the inside. However, the race had a green-flag feel, which put Gerhart in serious jeopardy of being unable to go the 175 miles required on his tank of fuel.
Luckily for Gerhart, the second half of the race had more than enough laps under yellow to help his cause.
On lap 45, Chad Hackenbracht got loose exiting turn 4. He attempted to correct the spin, but the correction sent his No. 58 Chevrolet around. The car began to overturn right as it hit the outside wall head-on, then it slid on its side before coming to rest right-side up. Hackenbracht walked away.
Gerhart kept the rest of the top runners on the inside, yet chose to run up approximately one full lane in the turns. Such a line gave Buescher an open lane to try to pass. However, Buescher never really attempted such a move.
The biggest crash of the race occurred on lap 64 when Hal Martin cut a right rear tire in turn 2. He continued into turns 3 and 4 before the tire finally gave way and put him into the wall. Martin’s teammate Steve Arpin attempted to dive low to avoid Martin and got turned around by Duno. The subsequent big crash involved a dozen drivers, eight of which were eliminated on the spot.
Once the crash was cleaned up, there was a 10-lap sprint to the finish. Once again, Gerhart left the bottom lane open for Buescher to attempt a move, but no move ever came. Gerhart effectively snookered Buescher and held on to take the victory. It is the seventh victory in the marquee ARCA event for Gerhart and the fifth in the last seven years. Wins by Michael Annett and James Buescher broke up Gerhart’s winning streaks.
In victory lane, the Pennsylvanian veteran was all smiles.
“We didn’t feel from the very beginning that we had the fastest car here, but there’s a key to getting [to victory lane],” Gerhart said. “You’ve got to put yourself in position. You’ve got to take a gamble now and then, and that’s just the way it went. We took a gamble.”
Buescher held on for second with Merrell in third. Ricky Carmichael finished fourth and Toyota All-Star Showdown winner Jason Bowles rounded out the top five. Licata, who made an unsuccessful move for second at the white flag, fell back to a sixth-place finish. Benny Gordon was seventh, followed by Chad McCumbee, Grant Enfinger and Frank Kimmel.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards takes over two months off before returning to the track on April 15 for the Talladega ARCA 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. The Friday evening race will be televised live on SPEED starting at 5:00 p.m. ET.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.