Sweet home Alabama for Holmes...ready for final exam at TalladegaMay 3, 2017
By Don Radebaugh -- ARCA
TALLADEGA, Ala. (May 3, 2017) -- No question…it helps to have a hometown hero in the show. On the ARCA Racing presented by Menards side, Bret Holmes is as hometown as it gets at Talladega Superspeedway where the 55th annual General Tire 200 will come to life Friday afternoon.
Holmes was born and raised in nearby Munford, Alabama. As the crow flies, that's about a five-minute flight.
"Talladega brings me home," said Holmes. "It would mean the world to me if I can win here, or even do well. I know a lot of friends and family would love to see that.
“Obviously, I’ve gone to my fair share of races at Talladega. I can’t put my finger on one race, but the feeling you get from a track like Talladega is something that I haven’t seen reproduced anywhere else. The fans are unlike any others in the sport, and I think they are the best out there. It's definitely a plus that a lot of them will be pulling for me this weekend.”
It's not just that Holmes grew up right down the street. The Auburn University student is very well known in the area. Holmes cut his teeth across the street on the Talladega Short Track.
"We've managed to build up a following…all the racing I've done across the road. I still have the (one-lap) track record over there in the dirt late models."
Good, bad or otherwise, Holmes has even more on his mind this weekend other than conquering Talladega Superspeedway. The General Tire 200 lines up perfectly with finals week at Auburn University where Holmes is wrapping up his sophomore year.
"I just had a Geology final this morning. I have a math final this Thursday night. I'll drive back home for the final and be back at the track Friday morning."
Holmes will have to get back to the track bright and early with ARCA Racing Series practice going out at 8:30 a.m. If Thursday marks his last final exam at college, there is arguably a bigger exam coming Friday afternoon on stock car racing's biggest track.
"As long as we keep improving, I'm happy. Especially with being a new team with a new crew chief…we're communicating a lot better now."
Holmes finished 10th in his Talladega debut last year, and came out with a sixth-place finish in this year's season-opener at Daytona.
"Our team is continuing to gain on it each week. I expect more than a sixth at Talladega. I felt like Daytona really helped me prepare for Talladega. Even with a pit road speeding penalty we still came from the back. Daytona taught me how to move around on the track. Our cars have improved…I've improved…I expect more from this team going forward."
After three events in '17, Holmes is currently fifth in championship points. Despite getting caught up in someone else's problem at Salem Speedway last Sunday, he still finished seventh with a car that now needs a rear clip.
"Salem was disappointing…we definitely had a top-five car, and we had the fastest car on old tires. We got hit by a kid who's already destroyed two cars in testing alone. The car needs a rear clip."
Despite the disappointment at Salem, Holmes is happier with the direction of his team.
"I'm definitely not satisfied, but I'm happy because our team is improving, and I'm happy with that. It's not exactly how we wanted to start the year off. We need more consistency. Me and the crew chief (Bryan Berry) are communicating a lot better. I feel like our program is solid from this point on. It's all about bringing fast cars to the track, and we're doing that."
The General Tire 200 at Talladega will be the 55th ARCA race at Talladega since the inaugural event in 1969. Former ARCA winners at Talladega include Ramo Stott, Mark Martin, Davey Allison, Red Farmer, Grant Adcox, Mike Wallace, Frank Kimmel, Justin Allgaier, Ty Dillon and Gus Dean.
Outside of teching cars the day before, it all happens in one day at Talladega with practice for the General Tire 200 Friday morning (May 5) from 8:30 to 10:20 a.m. General Tire Pole Qualifying (group format) follows at 2:30 p.m. The General Tire 200 is scheduled to get the green flag shortly after 5 Friday afternoon.
The General Tire 200 at Talladega is live on FS1. All on-track activities will be featured on live timing and scoring at arcaracing.com, plus live chat.