One of the pleasant surprises of the 2019 ARCA Menards Series season has to be the charge by Munford, Alabama’s Bret Holmes to the front of the series championship point standings. Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) sits second entering Saturday’s Menards 250 presented by MatrixCare at Elko Speedway, just 30 points behind leader Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota).
Just one year removed from parking his family-owned team’s racecars due to a frustrating and uncompetitive start to the 2018 season, Holmes finds himself in the thick of the fight week-in and week-out in 2019. With crew chief Shane Huffman setting up – and upgrading – the team’s fleet of racecars and making calls from on top of the pit box throughout the races, Holmes has seen his results improve dramatically. The 22-year-old building sciences major at Auburn University has already racked up five top-five finishes, one shy of doubling his previous career total, and ten top-ten finishes in the first twelve races of the season.
He’s coming to Elko looking to bolster his position on the points standings by scoring his first career series victory. He had success in his only other career appearance at the 0.375-mile track located about a half-hour outside of downtown Minneapolis/St. Paul. He started on the front row and was part of an nine-car battle for the win that resulted in a fourth-place finish in 2017. Holmes had to dodge a massive crash at the start-finish line on the final lap to score that finish as three of the drivers in front of him were involved.
Holmes has a vested interest in putting his cars back onto the team’s 18-wheel transporter in one piece, but he’s not afraid to knock fenders and swap some paint if it means he scores that elusive first win.
“I don’t mind it if it comes down to it,” Holmes said. “I own all of this stuff so it’s different when a driver owns all of the stuff. It’s more family-based and I work with our construction company and we try make as much money as we can to come do this. I don’t think a lot of the guys we are racing against have that thought. I don’t mind it and I don’t want to outright wreck people but I don’t mind replacing some body panels.”
Holmes isn’t known for an overly aggressive style on the racetrack. He’s much more in the style of a Mark Martin than a Dale Earnhardt. He won’t knock you out of the way for no reason, as Earnhardt was known for and often took joy in doing, but rather he will get physical as a way to return the favor.
“I race you like you race me,” he said. “That’s how it was earlier in the season at Toledo. Me and Michael Self, that was probably the hardest and closest I have ever raced somebody. We bumped a few times. He tried to take my entry to the corner away and I washed up a little on exit. That was the best and hardest I raced with someone. And we did it without knocking somebody out of the way or making someone loose. When it comes down to it I will, and if I get bumped I will do it back.”
While Holmes tries to live by those rules of the road, even he’s not sure how it would play out if he was in a fender-swapping duel for the win on the final lap.
“I’ve never been in second right on someone’s bumper to win a race, but it will come down to a split-second mental decision there,” he said. “I don’t think I would be blatant about it but I haven’t won a race yet. I won’t outright wreck someone to do it. If I am close and I haven’t won that first one yet, I would think about doing anything I could.”
Although Holmes and team are looking forward to the series’ annual trip to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, don’t look for him to be taking in too many sights around the Twin Cities.
“I haven’t looked into it too much,” he said. “It might sound kind of lame but we get in to these races so late. We work until three o’clock on travel days then we go pick up the guys and then fly off to the racetrack. We get to go to all of these cool places but we don’t usually have a lot of time to go see anything interesting. We’re working hard at our business so we can go race, and then we go race. There’s not a whole lot of time for anything else.”
Holmes and the rest of the ARCA Menards Series returns to action on Saturday July 13 in the Menards 250 presented by MatrixCare at Elko Speedway. Practice at Elko Speedway is set for 2:15 pm ET/1:15 pm CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is scheduled for 6:15 pm ET/5:15 pm CT, and the 250-lap feature event will go green shortly after 10 pm ET/9 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV, and ARCA for Me members can follow every lap made by every car entered throughout every on-track session with free live timing & scoring at ARCARacing.com. Discounted tickets to the Menards 250 are available at nearly 40 Minneapolis-St. Paul Menards locations for just $20. For more information, please visit TrackEnterprises.com or call 217-764-3200.