After competing in 14 of 20 races last season, Bret Holmes will be competing full-time in the ARCA Menards Series in 2019. He drives the No. 23 Chevrolet for his family-owned team, Bret Holmes Racing, and will contest the season championship for the first time.
Holmes has now competed in 42 career ARCA Menards Series events, including an 18th-place finish in Daytona International Speedway’s season opener last month. The 21-year-old driver from Munford, Ala. has a career-best finish of third at Salem Speedway in September 2016.
Now, Holmes and ARCA head to Five Flags Speedway for the second race of the ARCA Menards Series season. The famed short track returns to the ARCA schedule after a 23-year absence with the Pensacola 200.
Mark Kristl spoke with Bret Holmes concerning his thoughts about the race, his team, and the ARCA Menards Series.
Mark Kristl, Frontstretch: ARCA returns to Five Flags Speedway. You won a late model championship there in 2016. How confident are you about this race?
Bret Holmes: I feel really good about this race. Outside of Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Five Flags Speedway is one of the few tracks where I start the race weekend with this much confidence. We [Bret Holmes Racing] tested there [February 28]. While we still need some adjustments, I really like the setup of our No. 23 Chevrolet.
Kristl: Out of all the short tracks in America, what makes Five Flags Speedway special?
Holmes: For starters, its marquee race is the Snowball Derby. The Snowball Derby is such a premier late model race. It draws 50-60 entries. Some drivers and people bank their whole season on it. Tim Bryant and his crew do an outstanding job hosting the Snowball Derby.
The fact that it hosts the ARCA race this season makes it even cooler. There’s not as many older southeast race tracks to go race at and the team there works really well on the facility. I know Tim [Bryant] and his staff will do a tremendous job hosting the ARCA race. I’m happy to see ARCA return there.
Kristl: The race at Daytona International Speedway is always unpredictable. You finished 18th and you’re 16th in points. What is your outlook for the rest of this season?
Holmes: Yeah, the draft at Daytona somewhat equalizes the field. For us, while we didn’t we finish where we wanted, we were satisfied with our performance there. At one point, we raced with the Venturini Motorsports cars and we pulled away from the pack. It really showcased the improvement of Bret Holmes Racing.
Not the finish we wanted yesterday. Ran in the top 3 most of the race and got caught in someone else’s mess at the end. Regardless of that I’m stoked to see what the rest of the year holds! Great car & great team
— Bret Holmes (@bretholmes23) February 10, 2019
I’m proud of how far Bret Holmes Racing has come along as a family-owned ARCA team. With the hiring of crew chief Shane Huffman, we’ve got a good baseline for our season. We’re there with the top teams. We’re contending for wins. As a team, we’re definitely hungry for our first ARCA win.
Kristl: What makes you appealing to fans, sponsors, and others who might support you?
Holmes: For starters, we’re a smaller underdog team with only a few people working full-time for us. We’re a family team. Fans usually like hard-working, family-atmosphere race teams. Outside of Bret Holmes Racing, I’ve only driven for two other owners in my racing career. I drove a few late model races for Lee Faulk and I raced a few races last season for Ken Schrader in ARCA where I just wanted to race. Not to sound boastful; I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far.
Because we’re a family team, we’ve worked our way, as a family, through various racing series. We use our businesses to fund our racing team. As a team, we’ve learned together and improved in each series. We’ve worked our way up the racing ladder. We love ARCA and we want to be successful in this series. I think fans can relate to that desire.
Kristl: ARCA is not as well-known as the three NASCAR series. Why should people pay attention to it?
Holmes: ARCA has the diversity that fans clamor for in NASCAR. We race at superspeedways, short tracks, dirt tracks and intermediate tracks. The variety of tracks is good for fans who want to see good racing. We have a shorter season, only 20 races compared to the 36 on the Cup Series schedule. ARCA is a simple series with a lot of diversity [within] the teams and drivers. We’ve kept relatively the same setup for cars. We are a good racing series for fans.
With NASCAR’s acquisition of ARCA, it becomes even more a part of the NASCAR ladder. Drivers use it to move up to the Truck Series, the Xfinity Series… the ultimate goal is the Cup Series. Yet there are drivers, chiefly Frank Kimmel, who made a career in ARCA.
The drivers in the ARCA Series are full of good racing backgrounds from all over the country. I hope NASCAR promotes ARCA. If they do that, we gain more fans, and people will hopefully recognize the uniqueness of ARCA and they will enjoy it.
Kristl: You sound confident you will win your first ARCA race this season. While I’m not asking for a guarantee, where, in your opinion, will you win your first ARCA race?
Holmes: So we should have a real good chance at Five Flags Speedway this weekend. Outside of that, we should do really well at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville on May 4. There are two races at Salem Speedway this season, on April 14 and September 14. We should have a shot to win a race there. I really want to win at Talladega Superspeedway, though. It’s my NASCAR home track. I grew up racing nearby. With the draft, who knows what’ll happen? I’m looking forward to that race on April 26.
Bret Holmes Racing does its best at each race. We give our full effort at all the races. With the upgrades in our program, we can win a race this season. We’re real close to victory. I’m proud to race for my team in the ARCA Series. We know a victory is coming, hopefully soon.
The ARCA Menards Series races in the Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Five Flags Speedways on Sat., March 9 at 8 p.m. ET. The race will air live on MAVTV and their over-the-top streaming service, Lucas Oil Racing TV.