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Eric Holmes became the first driver to win a NASCAR Camping World Series race in a Toyota, and the first driver to win a NASCAR Camping World Series championship in a Toyota. Now he would like to become the first driver to win the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in a Toyota.
“I think that would be a great match to win the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway in a Toyota Camry,” said Holmes. “I think there’ll be a little pressure from Toyota on us to go there and try to win the race.”
The sixth edition of the prestigious postseason event, known as ‘the Daytona 500 of short-track racing,’ is slated for Jan. 23-24, 2009 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.). Holmes joins NASCAR Camping World Series East champion Matt Kobyluck and Austin Dillon as drivers to commit to the event.
Winning the race would be a great addition to the NASCAR Camping World Series West championship Holmes captured this season with car owner Bill McAnally.
“I was hired by Bill to win a championship for NAPA Auto Parts and Toyota,” said Holmes, who joined Bill McAnally Racing a year ago. “I think the next thing on our plate is to try to win this race.”
Holmes, who also won the NASCAR Camping World Series West championship in 2006, welcomes the added challenge to do well in this event.
“I usually like the pressure,” said the 34-year-old driver from Escalon, Calif. “So, it doesn’t bother me. I like having a little pressure and something you have to go after. It makes me try a little harder and dig a little deeper. I’m looking forward to it.”
Holmes won the NASCAR Elite Division portion of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2004, while competing in the former NASCAR Southwest Series and nearly won the Camping World portion two years later.
“Since they started the event, it’s been my favorite race,” Holmes said. “It’s the most prestigious race and most competitive race. Winning it in 2004 was, at the time, the biggest thing I’d ever won.”
He recalls almost winning the Camping World portion of the event after clinching his first title two years ago.
“In 2006, going there as the champion, we had a great race that day with Matt Kobyluck and Sean Caisse,” Holmes said. “We came very, very close to winning it again. To this day, it was probably the most competitive race I’ve ever been in, as far as the three of us battling. I very rarely go back and watch old races of mine, but every once in a while I’ll go back and watch that race.
“We ended up having problems at the end on the restart while leading and those guys got by me and then I crashed coming to the checkered. It was pretty wild. I definitely want to get another win, especially in the Camping World Series.”
A win at the Irwindale facility would also resolve some frustration for Holmes – who has three runner-up finishes and a third-place finish in five NASCAR Camping World Series West races at the half-mile track, but has yet to win.
“To go there and finish second or third every time I go there, is a little disappointing,” he admitted. “I’m always confident when I go there, because we’ve always run well. I know I can do it. It’s always been a track I’ve been fast at.”
Holmes’ confidence is boosted, knowing how dominant the NAPA-sponsored Bill McAnally Racing team has been at Irwindale. In addition to winning eight of 11 regular-season events between 2001 and 2007, BMR also scored a victory in the inaugural NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2003.
Despite their combined success, Holmes and his team will need to bounce back from struggles in their most recent visit to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
“That was probably our worst event this year,” he said of an eighth-place finish in August. “We just missed the setup. We’ve got to figure something out, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. I know we can go there and have a chance at winning the race.”
While the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown was held during the fall months in previous years, this next edition was moved to January – a change that has already generated some added excitement.
“It will be a little different, being in January,” Holmes said. “I think more people are going to pay attention because nothing is going on, racing wise. It’ll be the biggest thing going on. I think it will be a lot better for all of us, having the race in January.
“I think it’ll be a great time. I think that we’ll have a lot more interest on TV. That should bring a lot of hype to it and that’s better for us and our sponsors. ”
Holmes became the first driver this year to earn a secured spot in the starting lineup for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown by virtue of his win in the season opener at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., in March. Race winners of NASCAR Camping World Series events and champions of each of NASCAR’s seven developmental series earn secured spots in the race.
Besides Holmes, other drivers to win NASCAR Camping World Series races this season include Jason Bowles, Jeff Barkshire, Mike David, Todd Souza, Jason Fensler, Matt Kobyluck, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, Eddie MacDonald, Peyton Sellers, Brian Ickler and Aric Almirola.
In addition, Philip Morris (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Scott Steckly (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series), Antonio Perez (NASCAR Mexico Series), Ted Christopher (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) and Brian Loftin (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour) clinched championships.