Daytona: Series race story

Bobby Gerhart Adds to the Record Books with Historic sixth Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 Daytona Victory; Danica Patrick gains valuable experience, survives spin to finish sixth in stock car debut DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 6, 2010)-Veteran ARCA ...

Daytona: Series race story

Bobby Gerhart Adds to the Record Books with Historic sixth Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 Daytona Victory; Danica Patrick gains valuable experience, survives spin to finish sixth in stock car debut

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 6, 2010)-Veteran ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards driver Bobby Gerhart earned a historic sixth Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 Daytona race victory on Saturday evening, using patience and fuel strategy in ARCA's wreck-filled season opener to notch his seventh-career restrictor plate victory while IZOD INDY Car Series star Danica Patrick finished sixth in her stock car debut.

Patrick, who is expected to decide on Monday if she will compete in next week's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona, used the ARCA race to learn how to adapt to big, heavy stock cars. She showed that she is a fast learner, working the No. 7 Chevrolet on the inside, outside and middle lanes of the racetrack in both the front and the back of the field throughout the 80 lap/200-mile event.

Patrick ran in the lead pack for the first half of the race until getting loose in turns 1 and 2 on lap 50, losing the draft and dropping from sixth to 13th. Three laps later Nelson Piquet, Jr., the former Formula One driver who also used Saturday's ARCA race to make his stock car debut, made contact with Patrick's car coming off of turn 4, forcing her through the infield grass. Patrick slid sideways on the track and went through the infield grass but was able to avoid making contact. She made two pit stops following the spin, remaining on the lead lap, finishing sixth in her career first stock car start.

"I was just kind of hanging out there for most of the race," said Patrick. "There were lots of yellows. It feels to me like I got bumped a little bit in turns one and two (on lap 53). I just held to the yellow line because I know that you're not supposed to go below the yellow line to advance your position and I took myself out unfortunately. I was pretty excited to go from last to the top five. I felt pretty good, I was going side-by-side with people. And then at the end I was running eighth and I thought what the heck so I pulled out of the line and ran high. You can see I was racing by all of the marks on the car. The Chevrolet doesn't look very pretty."

While Patrick garnered most of the media attention this weekend it was Gerhart to etched his name further into the ARCA Racing Series Record Books, earning a record sixth Daytona ARCA victory. The Lebanon, Pennsylvania, native pitted to make adjustments to the No. 5 Lucas Oil Slick Mist Chevrolet on lap 12 of 80 during the second of six caution periods, making the most of the pit stop by topping the car off with fuel. He did not pit for the remainder of the 200-mile race and worked his way to the point position by lap 30.

"To be honest with you we calculated that we could run 66 laps before we would need to refuel," said Gerhart. "Every chance I could I was doing everything possible to conserve fuel. I probably gained six laps by coasting during cautions. As a little kid I dreamed of having the opportunity to come here and race. I couldn't have believed that I would ever be here six times and one day I hope to retire here in Daytona victory lane but let me tell you something, I don't like the number six so I guarantee I will be back."

Venturini Motorsports teammates Mark Thompson (No. 66 Phoenix Air Toyota) and John Wes Townley (No. 35 Zaxby's Toyota), spent much of the closing portions of the race working together to secure second and third-place finishes, respectively.

"We really didn't have much for Bobby," said Thompson. "His car and my car were pretty much even and I could have gotten a little bit of a run on the backstretch but he was running smart."

With his third-place finish Townley, a fulltime NASCAR Nationwide Series driver for Richard Childress Racing, bested the career-best fourth place Daytona ARCA finish he earned in 2009.

"I was always a little bit tight but we had a real fast car," said Townley. "It was tough to do anything because Bobby was so good. I really think this was a valuable experience. A great opportunity to come here and run and I'm really excited to go into next year and drive for RCR, how many people can say they run for that team?"

Defending race winner James Buescher finished fourth in the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Toyota after leading the first 29 laps and earning the Menard Pole Award presented by Ansell on Friday. Buescher will return to Daytona for next weekend's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Indiantown, Florida native Patrick Sheltra earned a career-best fifth-place Daytona finish.

The race was plagued by six cautions and a 21 minute, 40 second red flag that occurred on lap 27 while track safety workers made repairs to the speedway's fencing after Jill George made hard contact in the No. 48 Dodge. Jesse Smith (No. 29 Hormel Foods-Child's Tire dodge) was also involved.

Seven drivers were evaluated and released from the Infield Care Center after a lap 7 incident that started when 1998 ARCA Racing Series Champion Bill Baird (No. 52 Saturn Machine Chevrolet) and Steve Blackburn (No. 68 Harley-Davidson & Honda of Prestonburg Dodge) tangled in turns 1 and 2. Butch Jarvis, Milka Duno, Leilani Munter, Josh Richards and Chad Hackenbracht were also involved.

There were no injuries.

Bobby Gerhart earned the Aaron's Lap Leader Award and the Messina Half-Way Leader Award, James Finch's No. 51 Phoenix Construction Toyota Team earned Crew Chief of the Race Honors and the Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Race Award. Nick Igdalsky was the RE/MAX Rookie of the Race and Tommy Joe Martins was the CGS Imaging Hard Charger.

ARCA Racing Series teams will test at Palm Beach Int'l Raceway in Jupiter, Florida on Monday in preparation for the February 27 Tire Kingdom 150, the second of 20 events on the 2010 series schedule and the first of two road course races this year.

-source: arca

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