When the 2019 ARCA Menards Series schedule was released, Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) had two races circled on the calendar.
The Munford, Alabama native revamped his family-owned race team in the offseason and knew they’d be a contender for top five finishes on a weekly basis, and they have been. But Holmes, at just 23 years of age, is a veteran of the Alabama dirt tracks. He knew, even before the season started, that ARCA’s two annual visits to Springfield and DuQuoin – both one-mile dirt tracks – were going to be races where he could earn his first visit to an ARCA victory lane.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun to get back on dirt,” said Holmes. “I used to dirt race. I did it for about three-and-a-half years. That’s all my dad raced; he was a dirt late model racer. These dirt races are a lot of fun for us. I think it’s one of the races that all of us drivers look forward to every year, it’s just a good time running on the dirt. Springfield is basically a flat horse track, but it can be challenging. I’m looking forward to it for sure. We can really gain back some points back this month.”
After a tough 2018 season, Holmes knew he needed to make big changes. He and his father Stacy partnered with former driver and long-time crew chief Shane Huffman to spearhead the changes. Huffman’s addition to the team gave it expertise and guidance it lacked in previous years and the results were immediate. Holmes sits third in the championship standings, just 105 points behind leader Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) with five races remaining. Holmes has racked up 13 top-ten finishes, most of anyone in the series, and five of those have been among the top five. The strength the team has shown gives Holmes optimism headed into the final quarter of the ARCA Menards Series season.
“I think this weekend is a race that we can gain a lot of our points back,” said Holmes. “The drivers in front of us in the point standings aren’t big dirt racers, or at least didn’t grow up doing it. I think I have that little bit of advantage over them since I ran dirt not too long ago. I think we need to take that opportunity and run with it the best that we can.”
Holmes does have significant dirt track experience, which is a big advantage heading into the month of August in which the ARCA Menards Series races twice on dirt tracks, but the differences between his dirt late model and the full-bodied ARCA chassis don’t allow for a lot of crossover. Where Holmes’ expertise will come in is anticipating the changes the track surface will undergo throughout the course of the day.
“These dirt tracks can get slick without much warning, and it’s easy to get out of the groove and mess up,” said Holmes. “You have to be patient and race the track. I think that’s where my experience will come in, and we can capitalize on it. I learned a lot when we used to run on dirt, and my dad has a ton of experience with it. We’ll use all of that to our advantage this month and gain as many points as possible.”
The ARCA Menards Series returns to action with the first of two dirt track races with the Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil on Sunday August 18 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Practice on the one-mile dirt oval will begin at 10 am ET/9 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 12 n ET/11 am CT, and the 100-mile feature event will go green at 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can follow live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit TrackEnterprises.com.