Eric Holmes won the battle as NASCAR Camping World Series West competitors went to war on the short track of Madera Speedway on Saturday.
Holmes also took another step in winning the overall war in terms of going for a third series championship, as he won the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 presented by Exclusive Energy Drink. It marked his second win in the first four races this season.
Although Holmes appeared to have a dominant car when he had his No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota out front, he found it difficult to maintain the lead on restarts – as the upper groove became the fast way around the third-mile oval. Nearly every one of the eight cautions led to a lead change as the second-place car seemed to have an edge on the restart.
“We definitely had the best car tonight,” Holmes said. “It was just all a matter of who was on top on the restarts. It made it tough.”
The battle between Holmes, Mike David and David Mayhew became intense as the laps wound down, with contact between the trio leading to some crumpled fenders and possible bruised feelings.
After slipping back to third, Holmes battled his way back to the lead with 10 laps remaining and then held off Mayhew on a restart three laps from the finish to pull out the victory and gain his eighth career series win.
“That last restart, I had to do what I had to do and David (Mayhew) had to do what he had to do,” Holmes said. “I just had to use him a little bit. That’s short track racing, when you come down to a green-white-checkered on basically a one-groove track with these cars it makes it tough.”
Holmes had anticipated tight racing, but he expected everyone would be fighting for the bottom groove. “I was worried it was going to turn into a one-groove track on the bottom,” said the Escalon, Calif., driver. “It turned into a one-groove track on the top. I know I had the best car, but it was kind of just who was out front. It was so difficult to pass. The cars were really sliding around. There’s a lot of horsepower in these things. It was hard to get traction. I didn’t want to see that last caution and have to start on the bottom, but it all worked out.”
Mayhew of Atascadero, Calif., took second in the No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet – with David of Modesto, Calif., finishing third in the No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Toyota. Series rookie Paulie Harraka of Fairlawn, N.J., was fourth in the No. 12 NAPA AutoCare/Adpative One Brakes Toyota. Taking fifth was Greg Pursley of Newhall, Calif., in the No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Chevrolet. Completing the top 10 were Brett Thompson, Jason Bowles, Moses Smith, Johnathan Hale and Wes Banks.
Bowles, who was second to Holmes in the championship standings coming into the event, won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season with a qualifying lap of 76.883 mph. He had to pit with a flat right front tire, however, and battled back from being two laps down. Meanwhile, series rookie Jonathon Gomez appeared headed for a career-best finish, but a wild slide along the front stretch coming to the white flag left him to finish 11th.
The race featured seven lead changes among five drivers – Holmes, Mayhew, David, Harraka and Bowles.
With the win, Holmes stretched his lead in the championship standings to 66 points over Bowles – 720 to 654. Pursley is third with 645, followed by David with 632 and Mayhew with 616. Rounding out the top 10 are Harraka at 584, Smith at 569, Thompson at 561, Blake Koch at 555 and Banks at 508.
Despite his lead, Holmes knows it’s still too early in the season to take anything for granted. “We came into the year to go for another championship, but there’s a long time to go,” he said. “There’s still a lot of races, where a lot of stuff can happen. If we just keep plugging away and getting good cars and drive smart, we’ll be there at the end.”
The fight for this year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award has developed into one of the tightest three-way battles for the coveted title in recent years. Harraka and Koch are tied with 36 points each, while Gomez is just one marker back with 35. Bow Carpenter trails with eight points.
The next event on the schedule will be the annual NASCAR Camping World Series East/West combination race, the Long John Silver’s 200, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa on May 17.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD SERIES WEST-NAPA AUTO PARTS/TOYOTA 150 by Exclusive Energy Drink Results
At Madera Speedway
Lap length: 0.33 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (3) Eric Holmes, Escalon, Calif., Toyota, 150 laps, 53.449 mph, $6,600.
2. (6) David Mayhew, Atascadero, Calif., Chevrolet, 150, $3,500.
3. (5) Mike David, Modesto, Calif., Toyota, 150, $2,750.
4. (2) Paulie Harraka, Fairlawn, N.J., Toyota, 150, $3,025.
5. (9) Greg Pursley, Newhall, Calif., Chevrolet, 150, $2,100.
6. (14) Brett Thompson, Jerome, Idaho, Chevrolet, 150, $4,000.
7. (1) Jason Bowles, Ontario, Calif., Ford, 150, $3,800.
8. (7) Moses Smith, Tempe, Ariz., Toyota, 150, $2,200.
9. (16) Johnathan Hale, Rio Linda, Calif., Chevrolet, 150, $2,150.
10. (12) Wes Banks, Oakdale, Calif., Ford, 150, $2,100.
11. (15) Jonathon Gomez, Twin Falls, Idaho, Chevrolet, 150, $2,050.
12. (19) Jack Sellers, Sacramento, Calif., Chevrolet, 149, $2,025.
13. (8) Blake Koch, West Palm Beach, Fla., Chevrolet, 147, $2,000.
14. (18) Rodd Kneeland, Sonoma, Calif., Chevrolet, 141, $1,475.
15. (4) Jamie Dick, Albuquerque, N.M., Ford, 127, accident, $2,500.
16. (13) Jim Inglebright, Fairfield, Calif., Chevrolet, 93, engine, $1,425.
17. (10) Jim Warn, Aurora, Ore, Chevrolet, 67, engine, $1,850.
18. (11) Paul Pedroncelli, Jr., Sonoma, Calif., Chevrolet, 50, accident, $1,835.
19. (17) Phil Dugan, Meridian, Idaho, Ford, 33, suspension, $1,300.
20. (20) Ross Strmiska, Stockton, Calif., Dodge, 0, engine, $1,250.
Time of Race: 55 minutes 34 seconds
Margin of Victory: .597 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: J.Bowles (76.883 mph, 15.452 seconds)
Caution Flags: 8 for 38 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Bowles 1-5; P. Harraka 6-29; E. Holmes 30-56; M. David 57-86; E. Holmes 87-96; M. David 97-132; D. Mayhew 133-139; E. Holmes 140-150.
Standings: 1. E. Holmes, 720; 2. J. Bowles, 654; 3. G. Pursley, 645; 4. M. David, 632; 5. D. Mayhew, 616; 6. P. Harraka, 584; 7. M. Smith, 569; 8. B. Thompson, 561; 9. B. Koch, 555; 10. W. Banks, 508.