Eric Holmes appears to be on course to make a run for his third championship in four years in the NASCAR Camping World Series West. A dominant victory and repeat win in the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 before a sold-out crowd at All American Speedway on Saturday demonstrated just how strong he and his Bill McAnally Racing team are again this year.
“I had an excellent car,” Holmes said. “(Crew chief) Ty Joiner and the whole BMR team gave me a great NAPA Toyota Camry. Last lap finishes like Texas are a lot of fun, but these are more fun for my team, to have such a dominant car. It was an easy car to drive and I was just patient all night.”
A year ago, Holmes used a victory in the event at All American Speedway to launch his drive to the 2008 championship, to go with his 2006 title. He expressed satisfaction that the team has regained the momentum they had at the beginning of last year, something he felt may have been lost later in the season. “The end of last year, I felt like we were sort of missing a little bit,” he said. “We got it back tonight.”
The Escalon, Calif., driver dashed to an early lead and hardly looked back en route scoring his seventh career win in the series and moving atop the championship standings.
After starting third on the grid, he darted to the inside of Coors Light Pole winner Jason Bowles on the second lap. Holmes set sail from there, pulling away from the field and showing his prowess in slicing his way through lapped traffic around the tight third-mile oval.
“I got by Jason early,” Holmes said. “He got really loose off of (Turn) 2 and it made it real easy. My plan was to go to the front as quick as I could. Starting third, you just never know what will happen. I knew I could get by him. I was going to charge hard the first 10 laps and see what happened. I knew it was important to lead laps.”
Bowles pursued Holmes throughout the 150-lap event, but in the closing laps found himself having to hold off Holmes’ rookie teammate Paulie Harraka.
Holmes won in his No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota with a margin of victory of 2.58 seconds, to take $8,100 in prize money and posted awards. Bowles of Ontario, Calif., was second in the No. 6 Sunrise Ford Ford; with Harrraka of Fairlawn, N.J., nipping at his rear bumper in his No. 12 NAPA AutoCare/Adaptive One Brakes Toyota. David Mayhew of Atascadero, Calif., was fourth in the MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet – while series rookie Blake Koch of West Palm Beach, Fla., was fifth in the No. 21 GodSpeaks.com Chevrolet. Rounding out the top 10 were Greg Pursley, who rebounded after damaging his car in practice; Mike David; Moses Smith: Wes Banks and Johnathan Hale.
Holmes won the event at a record pace, leaving only six cars on the lead lap at the finish. The pace of the race was slowed by only three cautions for 22 laps.
Holmes, who with his win secured a spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, has taken the early lead in the championship standings after two races. He leads with 360 points, followed by Pursley with 335, Mayhew with 320, Bowles with 313 and Smith with 312 They are followed by David with 297, Koch with 285, Harraka with 277, Jamie Dick with 275 and Brett Thompson with 273.
In the chase for this year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, Jonathon Gomez and Blake Koch have taken the early lead, with 18 points each. Harraka is closed behind with 17 points, while Bow Carpenter trails with eight points.
The next event on the NASCAR Camping World Series West schedule will be the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 150 Presented by Shamrock Farms at Phoenix International Raceway on April 16.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD SERIES WEST-TOYOTA/NAPA AUTO PARTS 150 Results
At All American Speedway
Lap length: 0.333 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (3) Eric Holmes, Escalon, Calif., Toyota, 150 laps, 67.576 mph, $8,100.
2. (1) Jason Bowles, Ontario, Calif., Ford, 150, $6,000.
3. (2) Paulie Harraka, Fairlawn, N.J., Toyota, 150, $3,875.
4. (4) David Mayhew, Atascadero, Calif., Chevrolet, 150, $2,250.
5. (9) Blake Koch, West Palm Beach, Fla., Chevrolet, 150, $2,600.
6. (12) Greg Pursley, Newhall, Calif., Chevrolet, 150, $3,500.
7. (5) Mike David, Modesto, Calif., Toyota, 149, $2,300.
8. (7) Moses Smith, Tempe, Ariz., Toyota, 149, $2,250.
9. (14) Wes Banks, Oakdale, Calif., Ford, 148, $2,225.
10. (13) Johnathan Hale, Rio Linda, Calif., Chevrolet, 147, $2,177.
11. (15) Jim Inglebright, Fairfield, Calif., Chevrolet, 146, $2,150.
12. (6) Jonathan Gomez, Twin Falls, Idaho, Chevrolet, 145, $2,100.
13. (16) Jack Sellers, Sacramento, Calif., Chevrolet, 145, $2,075.
14. (17) Phil Dugan, Meridian, Idaho, Ford, 145, $1,550.
15. (10) Brett Thompson, Jerome, Idaho, Chevrolet, 143, $2,025.
16. (8) Jamie Dick, Albuquerque, N.M., Chevrolet, 120, suspension, $2,000.
17. (11) Jim Warn, Aurora, Ore, Chevrolet, 53, overheating, $1,975.
18. (18) Jim Marchino, Modesto, Calif., Ford, 8, ignition, $1,450.
Time of Race: 44 minutes 21 seconds
Margin of Victory: 2.58 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: J.Bowles (88.218 mph, 13.589 seconds)
Caution Flags: 3 for 22 laps.
Lead Changes: 1 among 2 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Bowles 1; E. Holmes 2-150.
Standings: 1. E. Holmes, 360; 2. G. Pursley, 335; 3. D. Mayhew, 320; 4. J. Bowles, 313; 5. M. Smith, 312; 6. M. David, 297; 7. B. Koch, 285; 8. P. Harraka, 277; 9. J. Dick, 275; 10. B. Thompson, 273