Three-time NASCAR K&N West Series Champion Eric Holmes has raced only sporadically over the last three seasons, but he has thrown his hat into the ring for the upcoming Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway (CA) on February 9-11.
Holmes will once again team up with long-time friends and racers, Nascimento Motorsports. They will bring their numerous years of experience to the event in hopes of securing the $30,000 payday and bragging rights for years to come.
The Escalon, CA driver enters the 3rd Annual Winter Showdown spending a substantial amount of his time as a driver coach and spotter, working with his former NASCAR K&N West car owner Bill McAnally.
Holmes was the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Champion in 2006, 2008 and 2010 as well as its championship runner-up in 2009 and 2011. From 2006 to 2013 Holmes accumulated 17 wins, to rank as one of the most dominant drivers of the era. His accomplishments also include two NASCAR Southwest Tour Series championship runner-up results, and another nine victories in that series. In addition, Holmes sits tied for 12th all-time in SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series wins.
Prior to the 2016 race season, Holmes’ post 2013 driving efforts had been limited primarily to a few Late Model events at Madera Speedway (CA), and a Modified race or two. To begin the 2016 season, however, the Nascimento Motorsports Team collectively decided to build a Super Late Model and hit some bigger events such as the Winter Showdown.
“About two years ago, we (Mike and Eric Nascimento) were winning the Madera Late Model races, and running a few Modified races,” Holmes told Speed51.com. “I kept telling them, let’s step up and do a Super Late Model. So a couple of them went in together. One bought the engine, and the other bought the car. And now we have a pretty bada– Super Late Model. It has been a lot of fun, and it is fun racing with them. When we go race, they don’t spare any expense. When we show up to race, we show up to win, and have a good time.”
The 2016 Winter Showdown saw Holmes debut their new Hamner powered, Victory Circle chassis straight rail car. The team qualified eighth and finished 22nd, but Holmes was very happy with the new ride.
“Last year the car was brand new. We built the car in three weeks, and never really got to test it. We went down there (Kern County Raceway) and practiced pretty good, qualified eighth and ran in the top 10 the whole race,” Holmes explained. “We were just waiting for the end of the race, when someone got loose and hit me in the front. It bent the tie rod and we spun, but it wasn’t our fault, and we felt like we had a good top-five car. We weren’t really happy with the finish, but we were happy with how the car performed.”
Holmes acknowledges that heading into the 2017 Winter Showdown, they may be at a slight disadvantage by having only four or five events under their belt in 2016. But he believes it is something that he, and his team, can overcome because of past performances.
“It definitely makes it a little tougher,” Holmes began. “I did feel like we were at a little bit of a disadvantage at last year’s Showdown, but we ran really strong at the end of the year. We won Madera (his third consecutive $10,000-to-win Short Track Shootout for Super Late Models) and ran really strong in Las Vegas (the Fall Super Late Model Open Show at The Bullring at LVMS). I really think we will have a strong car for the Showdown, and we will be able to compete for the win.
“Going to a race like this for us, we are going there expecting to win,” Holmes continued. “We know we probably aren’t going to be the dominant car, but it is a long race and I feel like with my experience, and the quality of our car, we can be there at the end to win this thing. We hope that we can be the dominant car, but with Derek Thorn, Erik Jones, (Kyle) Busch and those guys, you know that they are going to be superfast. They race a lot more than I do now, but I have a good feeling that I can compete with them, and be there at the end to win this race. I’m not going there to run fifth, I’m going to win.”
For Holmes, racing with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers is nothing new. But like with all things, it has its pluses and minuses.
“I’ve raced with a lot of those guys over the years, and they really up the level of competition,” Holmes commented. “You know they will be tough to beat. For me, I really enjoyed racing with those guys. But at times, I look back now and think about things like Sonoma (Raceway, CA). I’ve done so much in my racing career, but that’s one race I have never won. I came close so many times, but finished second to three different Cup drivers. Now looking back on it, I kind of kick myself in the butt. I think, dang I wish those guys weren’t there. It would have improved my chances.
“But at the same time, it lets you know where you stack up against a guy like that. I’ve known Kyle, Kurt (Busch) and those guys a long time, so I’ve raced against them in the past. He will be a fierce competitor and I’m really looking forward to it. At this point in my career, I haven’t gotten to race against them in a while, so I am really looking forward to it. It should be fun, and you know he will be tough.”
Looking beyond the 2017 Winter Showdown, Holmes, and the Nascimento Motorsports Team will look to increase their schedule of events in 2017. Early plans have them participating in a few SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series events, as well as some other high-profile, high-paying Super Late Model events throughout the Northwest and Southwest regions of the country. But for now, the focus will be on bringing home the winner’s trophy and the $30,000 winner’s check from the richest Super Late Model race in the country, the 3rd Annual Winter Showdown.
Race fans unable to make it to Kern County on February 9-11 can watch Holmes via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. To order a live video ticket for the race, click here.
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com