Three-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Champion Eric Holmes has had an “off” season. By his standards, at least. Despite a few near misses along the way, there was still a goose egg in the win column as the series headed to Spokane County Raceway (WA) on Saturday. Holmes knew it was time for a change and he told team owner Bill McAnally that he needed to be back with his old crew chief, who was still available. Ty Joiner and Holmes won West Series titles in 2006 and 2008. The two reunited and went to victory lane at Spokane in their first west race back together.
"Ty just knows me and the way I drive, from Late Models to the West Series cars," said Holmes. "Ty was working at the shop and we had to make a move. I told Bill (MAnally), ‘We gotta make a change.’ I knew Ty and I could go out and win a race and be ready for 2012. We came to Spokane and did it."
Holmes was all smiles in victory lane, but it wasn't a situation where he was going to throw his old crew chief Duane Knorr under the bus. The two had worked well together and minus a mishap and a dry fuel tank, they could have won at least a pair of races.
"I was confident in Duane all year," explained Holmes. "We should have won Roseville, Vegas and we ran out of gas at Utah. We had good runs, but we weren't ever gaining on the car like we needed. He worked his tail off, but we just couldn't communicate."
The former West champ needed to gain in his efforts at Spokane. Normally BMR (Bill McAnally Racing) is the team to beat in the West and Holmes is a major point contender, but the dominance of Gene Price Motorsports in 2011 has left Holmes looking at the top from the mid portion of the top 10.
After starting sixth at Spokane, Holmes chased down series point leader Greg Pursley and then went to war with the hottest driver on the circuit, 16-year-old Dyan Kwasniewski. The two traded the lead a dozen times on the track and they led all 200 laps of the race. In the end, Holmes was able to hold the youngster off for his 15th career win.
"Dylan gave me a hell of a race," said Holmes. "That was a lot of fun and those restarts were a little nerve-wracking."
The youngster Kwasniewski was upset with himself for having his two-race win streak snapped, but was happy that he got to race so hard for the lead and that it was clean.
"That was a blast," said Kwasniewski. "It's the hardest I have raced in these types of cars. I kept trying to force the issue and the caution would come out. We had the same car we had the first half and once he got in front of me he just stayed there. We had a first-place car and I had lots of opportunities to pass him. Those last few laps I just overdrove it and lost track position. I believe that me overdriving it is why we lost the race tonight."
Kwasniewski tried on the final lap one last-ditch effort only to come up short. As the two crossed the line, they were followed by Pursley, who with his 11th top-five finish of the season all but clinched the championship.
"It feels pretty good," said Pursley. "We did what we wanted to do here at Spokane. We came out of here and got a top-three finish. It's really good for the points, but I am not saying it's over till it's over. We are going to go to the next two races, Roseville and Phoenix with the intentions of winning them. That's the way we want to go out and accomplish that."
According to NASCAR PR, all Purlsey has to do is take the green at All American Speedway (CA) on October 15th to win the season-long championship with still one race after that at Phoenix International Raceway (AZ).
Pursley is also surprised of the way the season shook out as he was banking on a big time battle with the NAPA-backed Bill McAnally Racing teams.
"I didn't think they would have a year like they have had," said Pursley. "I figured the whole time they were the ones that we were going to have to race to win the championship. It's good to see them back on track and to finally get a win. We have good racing in the series and I hope it can continue because it's nice to be a part of something like this."
-Moses took another top five and held on to second in the points.
-Braeden Havens won the Super Late Model Race and then finished 11th in his first NASCAR West race.
-Kwasniewski has moved up to fifth in points after having missed one race.
-Travis Milburn posted a career best 10th at Spokane
-The race was slowed by 11 cautions.
- Gene Price Motorsports cars have led 1184 laps this year. That's 68.8% of all laps run.
- This was the first trip to Spokane for NASCAR since 1979. Both the track and NASCAR plan on returning for 2012 and beyond.
-20 of 22 cars were running at the finish.