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bobby gerhart AP Photo/Terry Renna

On February 8, the ARCA Menards Series kicks off at Daytona International Speedway, and, for the first time in 33 years, longtime racer Bobby Gerhart will be missing the season opener.

After a 32 consecutive starts at Daytona, which culminated in eight victories and 15 top-10 finishes over the course of his career, the 61-year-old Lebanon, Pennsylvania native will be be forced to break his impressive streak after suffering a heart attack over the Christmas break.

Bobby Gerhart Sidelined for ARCA Menards Season Opener

“I guess you could say I got the greatest Christmas gift of all,” Bobby 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.”

Gerhart continued, “I guess we can say I am stepping out of the seat immediately due to health issues. 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.”

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Since 1998, Gerhart, who owns used truck dealership Bobby Gerhart’s Truck World in Lebanon, has made 341 ARCA Series starts, racking up nine wins, 55 top-five finishes, and 124 top-10 finishes, and nine poles. He’s also raced in all three of NASCAR’s national series, with 24 NASCAR Cup Series starts, 18 NASCAR Xfinity starts, and 10 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series starts.

Though he won’t be behind the wheel of his No. 5 Chevrolet SS on February 8, Gerhart will still need to find a replacement driver for the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire.

“It’s awfully late in the going, we know that,” Gerhart 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.”

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“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.”

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