TALLADEGA, Ala. – When the checkered flag waved for Saturday’s Chevy Silverado 250, it was Bret Holmes who was a meager .002 seconds ahead of Matt DiBenedetto as the pair crossed the line at Talladega Superspeedway.
But when Corey Heim crashed in the tri-oval and crossed back into traffic, NASCAR officials were forced to call a caution flag moments before the leaders passed over the finish stripe.
At the moment of caution, DiBenedetto was ahead by a bumper, earning his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory and denying Holmes in a heartbreaker.
“I don’t know whether to cry or be happy that we had a good run,” Holmes shared post-race. “That’s just what I’m thinking right now.”
In a waiting period that seemed like an eternity, the No. 32 truck and the No. 25 truck stopped side by side at the entrance of pit road awaiting official word on who was permitted to celebrate.
After NASCAR reviewed video evidence, they declared Holmes would be placed third, behind DiBenedetto and playoff driver Ben Rhodes.
“Yeah, I just didn’t get my hopes up,” Holmes explained regarding what he felt while waiting in the truck after the cooldown lap. “We lost the ARCA race that close, and I know we were even closer this race. We were fortunate enough to stay out of trouble today and stay up front, and our lanes kept going forward. We were pushed really well and had a fast truck. But the race is at the end of the start-finish line.
“I don’t know what you say. Throwing a caution right there at the end doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s really tough losing that close.”
Holmes’ hometown is a hop, skip and a jump away from Talladega, just 12 miles over in Munford, Ala., so how close Holmes came to the win stung even more. He was hoping to climb out of the truck to home crowd cheers for their local driver, but like the ARCA race back in March of this year, he found himself waiting for another round to try again.
“No doubt (it was bittersweet),” noted Holmes. “Even the people at the track here have been good to me. The put on an event for me when we won the ARCA championship when they didn’t have to. You don’t know how many more opportunities you get to do it, and for a part-time team and family-funded team, if you don’t get any support, you don’t know how long you’re going to do it.
“I felt like if they were waiting this long, they weren’t going to give (the win) to me. Them taking that long, the longer it took, I just started losing hope a bit. I don’t know if that’s the right way to be, but that’s what I was thinking at the time.”
The 25-year old is no stranger to competing for superspeedway wins. The style of racing in the draft has suited his family-operated team well and given him better chances of claiming the winner’s hardware.
Holmes knows he’s a David fighting Goliaths in the sport, but he hasn’t let that discourage him.
“Our team is scratching. I work full-time through the week to be able to do this. We take a lot from our families’ companies and sacrifice a lot to do this, so any little bit and any more exposure in showing that your able and capable to do it – we don’t get any manufacturer support. We don’t get any simulator time. We don’t get any of all that bulls*** when we still run as we do sometimes, so it’s just fighting to stay here.”
Last year, Holmes led 11 laps at Talladega and was in contention late in the running. This year, after leading seven laps, he knows his time is just around the corner.
“It was the same as last year. We brought the same truck, brought the same setup. With these races, everything just has to fall your way and you have to make the right choices,” Holmes tipped. “Fortunately, that happened for us and showed that we can do this. We just have to be a little bit better at some of the other race tracks too and show that at those places too.”
For Holmes, he knows it’s easier said than done, however.
“It’s impossible to make 100 percent all the right choices.”