Bret Holmes breathed a deep sigh of relief as he got out of the No. 23 Southern States Bank Chevy at Michigan International Speedway on Friday evening. Although he was drained both mentally and physically, there was a clean and honest smile on his face that said it all.
The Munford, Ala., driver finally didn’t have to rally; he didn’t spin, he didn’t speed on pit road, he ran his race, and he ran it all the way to a fourth-place finish that also earned him SCOTT Rookie of the Race honors for the second time this season in the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards.
It wasn't a win, but it did tie his best finish of the year.
“It feels good to finally get a race put together like we did here today,” Holmes said. “I think we made some significant strides this week with our intermediate program and if we can continue to have more races like this, we will be a strong contender this season.”
After qualifying 10th, Holmes maintained his position for most of the race with slight variations in both directions until he started his march towards the front with 20 laps to go. Calm, calculated and precise, he carved his way through the top-10 until passing his final car on the exit of turn four coming to the checkered flag.
As he exited the car, clear signs of heat exhaustion could not dampen the feeling of success that has been a rare commodity for Bret Holmes Racing this season.
“These are the kind of races we work so hard week in and week out for,” Holmes said. “This race was a good confidence booster going into the next few events, and I think as I and the team get more comfortable, we can really do some damage in this series.”
Although Holmes was happy with his result in the Irish Hills, he still felt like he had a little more to give at the famed 2.0-mile D-shaped oval.
“This was my first race here, and I think we had a top-3 car, but I know I needed just a little more experience to make that happen,” Holmes said. “I’m going to a bunch of tracks that I have never been on before, so gaining experience anywhere and everywhere is really a top priority for me right now.”
With this finish at Michigan, Holmes tied his best 2017 ARCA result with his fourth-place run at Elko two weeks ago. His best career finish was last year at Salem, where he managed a third-place result.
Now, with the momentum starting to favor the Auburn University student, Holmes is eager to see how far he can take this good fortune and move into better positioning in the driver points standings where he is currently tied for fifth.
“I really want to break that top-3 barrier now,” Holmes said. “My best career finish was third at Salem last season, and I want to jump that hurdle now as we approach some short tracks in the next few weeks.
“We are going to focus now on improving our position in the points and get back in this thing. We will make some noise this season, and Michigan was just the start of it.”
Holmes and the No. 23 crew will now look to continue their momentum at Madison International Speedway June 23 in the Montgomery Ward 200. The race will be televised Live on MAVTV at 9 p.m. Eastern.
For more on Bret Holmes, please visit his new website at www.bretholmes.com or “like” him on Facebook (@bretholmesracing). Follow him on Twitter (@bretholmes_2).