ERIC HOLMES HOPES TO DOUBLE-UP AT NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 21, 2006) -- Eric Holmes knows what it takes to get to victory lane in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. He won the NASCAR AutoZone...
ERIC HOLMES HOPES TO DOUBLE-UP AT NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 21, 2006) -- Eric Holmes knows what it takes to get to victory lane in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. He won the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division portion of this prestigious post-season event at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in 2004.
Holmes, of Escalon, Calif., is hoping to take that success one step further in 2006. He is on track to become the first driver to simultaneously earn spots in the both the Elite Division and in the Grand National Division events, in this year's edition of the all-star event.
"It's something that we really wanted to do," said Holmes. "I would love to win it again and get the opportunity to win two in one night. No one has done that. It's a race I really enjoy. There's a lot of stuff that goes with [this event]. It's the biggest thing we have."
The fourth annual Toyota All-Star Showdown, which showcases NASCAR's top regional touring series drivers and teams in an invitation-only format, returns to Irwindale Oct. 20-21. The top 15 drivers from the two series that comprise the NASCAR Grand National Division -- the AutoZone West Series and the Busch East Series -- are invited, along with the top 10 drivers from each of the four series in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, which includes the Midwest Series, Northwest Series, Southeast Series and Southwest Series.
Holmes, a veteran of the Southwest Series, finished 14th in Elite Division portion of the inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2003. After winning the coveted prize in 2004, he ran a limited Southwest Series schedule last year and missed out on the post-season competition.
Holmes and car owner Allen Beebe decided to tackle both divisions this season. Their initial plans were to run the full Southwest Series schedule and select events in the AutoZone West Series, in preparation for next year. After the first few races, Holmes and Beebe found themselves among the leaders of the AutoZone West Series, an unexpected result that caused them to re-think their approach.
"Even though we had a bad run at [Infineon Raceway], we still were in it," said Holmes. "At that point, we made the decision to go for the whole year."
Holmes is currently leading the point standings for the AutoZone West Series with two events remaining. In the Southwest Series, he is 11 points out of first place, with only one race remaining to decide the championship. In addition to claiming two spots in the Toyota All-Star Showdown, Holmes could win both championships. Such a rare feat - winning two series titles in the season season simultaneously - has only occurred three times in NASCAR history: Lee Petty won the Short Track Division and Grand National Division (now NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series) championships in 1958 and former Toyota All-Star Showdown competitor Mike Stefanik won the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships simultaneously in '97 and again in '98.
Holmes acknowledged that running both events will be a challenge, but his team is ready. "I think we're pretty well prepared. [There is still] a little time [left] to see what our equipment is going to be like at that point."
Doing double-duty on a big weekend is nothing new to Holmes or the Beebe Racing Enterprises team.
"At Phoenix, in January, I ran both cars on the same day and finished second and third," said Holmes. "I think we have enough people, knowledge and equipment to do it. I'm really looking forward to that day. It will be a busy, busy day, though."
Holmes is optimistic that all the hard work will pay off, in terms of added exposure and a possible opportunity for him in one of NASCAR's three national series.
"Just by running both cars [this season], it seems like every time I call or order something [for the race shop], the person on the other line knows who I am," said Holmes. "I can imagine all the publicity I should be able to get by running both cars [in the Showdown]. I'm getting to the age where I need to make it, or do something different. We put a lot of effort in to trying to get my name out there. Hopefully, I can pick up a ride."
Both of last year's Toyota All-Star Showdown race winners, David Gilliland and Auggie Vidovich, have advanced to the national level. During the past three years, Gilliland had experienced competition in both divisions in the Toyota All-Star Showdown -- finishing third in the Elite Division in 2003 and taking the Grand National trophy in 2005 -- but never in the same season simultaneously. Gilliland was recently named as the new driver of the No. 38 M&M's Ford for Robert Yates Racing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
After taking home the Elite Division hardware last year, Vidovich went on to be selected to drive the No. 4 Biagi-DenBeste Racing Dodge in the NASCAR Busch Series.
The race: NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
The drivers: Top 15 drivers from each of the two series in the NASCAR Grand National Division, including the Busch East Series and AutoZone West Series ... Top 10 drivers from each of the four series in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, including the Midwest Series, Northwest Series, Southeast Series and Southwest Series.
The place: Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway
The dates: Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21
Radio: NASCAR Radio on XM Satellite Radio (Channel 144)
Posted awards: $500,000
Track layout: Half-mile oval
2005 Grand National Division winner: David Gilliland
2005 Elite Division winner: Auggie Vidovich