Holmes Goes Back To Go Forward

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. – Eric Holmes looked to the past to stem the tide of newcomers dominating the action in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

Holmes, behind the wheel of his No. 20 NAPA Toyota, survived two restarts in the final 20 laps and held off rookie driver Dylan Kwasniewski – winner of the last two series races – to win the Spokane 200 on Saturday at Spokane County Raceway. It was the defending series champion’s first win of the 2011 season and first since Oct. 16, 2010 at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. It marked his 15th career series win.

For the Spokane event, Holmes, the three-time series champion out of Escalon, Calif., reunited with crew chief Ty Joiner, who helped lead him to titles in 2006 and 2008.

“We had a great car all night,” said Holmes, who started sixth on the grid. “The car was good, moving up. I felt like I was gaining on them at the end of the first 100. The NAPA Toyota team made a great change there at the halfway break. I think that’s all we needed. And I got great restarts.”

Holmes charged past Kwasniewski, the 16-year-old out of Las Vegas, Nev., just after that midway break on Lap 104. Kwasniewski battled back on a later restart and edged his No. 03 Rockstar/Royal Purple Ford out front for a couple of laps. The two cars were back-and-forth, side-by-side for six laps – but the teenager could not hold off the determined veteran.

“Man he gave me a tough run,” Holmes said. “It was a lot of fun racing Dylan. He did a great job.”

Over the rest of the way, Kwasniewski took several more runs at the lead, but Holmes was able to keep him at arm’s length in the first K&N Pro Series West event at the Eastern Washington track since 1979.

“Racing side-by-side was great,” Kwasniewski said of the battle. “We had the car to win. He definitely had a first-place car, too. It was just who made the less mistakes and who drove the hardest.”

Points leader Greg Pursley battled to a third-place finish, followed by Luis Martinez Jr. and Moses Smith in fourth and fifth, respectively. Michael Self, Brett Thompson, Jonathan Gomez, Carl Harr and Travis Milburn rounded out the top 10.

Cameron Hayley, a 15-year-old out of Calgary, Alberta, started from the outside pole position in his second series start. He ran in the top five through nearly all of the first half of the race, but experienced a broken A-arm just before the midway break. He returned to finish 18th.

Earlier in the day, Kwasniewski collected his second career Coors ’21 Means 21’ Pole Award.

Pursley, meanwhile, increased his lead over Smith in the championship standings to 294 points, meaning that he will only have to take the green flag in the next race, the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150, at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., on Oct. 15 to clinch his first series title based on a 24-car field there.

The Spokane 200 from Spokane County Raceway will air on SPEED on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 3 p.m. PT.

While Pursley leads the standings with 2,050 points, Smith is second with 1,756. Holmes is third with 1,717, followed by Martinez with 1,694 and Kwasniewski with 1,644. Filling out the top 10 are Self at 1,637, Thompson at 1,636, Daryl Harr at 1,449, Ryan Philpott at 1,399 and Carl Harr at 1,329.