On the outside, professional athletes live what most people would consider a very glamorous lifestyle. They travel all across the country – even around the world – to participate in big-time sporting events in some of the most lavish venues the human race has ever constructed. But for the participants of those sporting events, it’s not always as glamorous as it looks. For most who are involved in motorsports, the long days at the track mean there is little time left over for being a tourist. It’s usually just the race track, maybe a stop off at a local restaurant, and the hotel.
It’s rare when the ARCA Menards Series makes a stop on its 20-race schedule when everyone in the garage area wants to go explore the same places. St. Louis, just across the Mississippi River from World Wide Technology Raceway, is one of those destinations. Whether it’s the Gateway arch, a brewery tour, a Cardinals game, or just exploring downtown, it seems like there is always something for drivers and teams to do before they take to the track.
“A lot of the races we go to we don’t get to see a whole lot,” said Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation/Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet), currently the runner-up in the ARCA Menards Series championship standings. “Last year we went to the Arch and walked around downtown a little bit. We didn’t have a whole lot of time but we got to go and look around and see quite a bit. We haven’t looked into what want to do this week but it’s a great city and I am sure we’ll find something fun to go and do.”
Holmes is looking for his first career ARCA Menards Series win. He’s had a great first half of 2019, scoring four top-five finishes and a series-leading eight top-ten finishes in the first ten races of the year. He has found the consistency to run up front, and after a difficult and trying 2018 season he believes his team is ready to start chasing that elusive first series win.
“We are going into each race trying the best we can,” Holmes said. “I have been studying and working out as hard as I can and the guys at the shop are working as hard as they can. On my side of it, I wish I had a win or two or a few. I always thought it would be weird to do well in points and not win a race and we don’t want that to happen. We want wins. But we weigh it out equally. We go into each race putting in 100 percent effort. I have all the confidence in the world we can do it. I think every year these teams figure things out and get better. Everybody gains a little bit each year and we need to catch up to that. We don’t get a lot of association help from any other NASCAR team, so we’re a bit of a dark horse on that side of it.”
The unique layout of the Gateway oval – its 1.25-mile distance is different than any other track on the schedule, each end of the race track has a different level of banking, and both ends have different radius corners – means that the drivers and teams have to work hard to find a setup that will work. Holmes has bolstered his team by adding in veteran crew chief Shane Huffman, a former driver who won ARCA races last year on top of the pit box with MDM Motorsports and drivers Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton.
“I think we will be a lot better than we were last year,” Holmes said. “It is a very different place. It took me a while to get a hold of it. I watched a lot of videos from there. They put down some traction compound so that’s something we’ll have to get used to. We haven’t decided whether or not we will be shifting. It’s a very unique track, and I like tracks like that. It’s a cool size. It’s hard to pass at Gateway but it’s a cool place to go and make some laps at.”
The difference between 2019 and 2018 has been night and day for Holmes and his family-owned team. Last season was so frustrating for Holmes that he and his father Stacy parked the team shortly after the mid-season point to regroup. It was the right call, as this season’s results have proven. But Holmes still finds the memories of last season’s struggles tough to get over.
“We can’t compare this year to last year,” he said. “A lot of it has been some changes in mentality. Last year if just felt like nothing was going right for me. When you’re not doing well in racing it seems to carry over to outside of racing and things just didn’t seem to be going right. With Shane (Huffman) on board it has really changed so many things. I don’t like to think about last year a lot. I don’t even like to watch the races from last year. It’s just a part of it. You go through people and make changes and then you get to where you want to be and you get to start over again.”
Practice for the ARCA Menards Series Day to Day Coffee 150 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is scheduled from 12:35 pm ET/11:35 pm CT and 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT; General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 5:30 pm ET/4:30 pm CT, and the green flag will fall on the 120 lap/150-mile race at 7:30 pm ET/6:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat throughout all on-track activities at ARCAracing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCAracing.com/login. For ticket information, call 618-215-8888 or log on to www.wwtraceway.com.