WS: Eric Holmes - Series pre-season spotlight

Plenty In Store For Holmes; Defending West champ kicks off business venture Eric Holmes learned a lot about his primary sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, during his first season driving for Bill McAnally Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Series West in...

Plenty In Store For Holmes; Defending West champ kicks off business venture

Eric Holmes learned a lot about his primary sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, during his first season driving for Bill McAnally Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Series West in 2008. After winning his second championship in three years, Holmes ended up learning even more about the auto parts business in the offseason -- becoming a part-owner in two NAPA Auto Parts stores.

Holmes went into business with long-time friend Phil Tilbury Jr., in the purchase of the NAPA store in his hometown of Escalon, Calif., and another NAPA store in nearby Riverbank.

"We've been remodeling a NAPA store and trying to learn that business," Holmes said of his new venture. "It kind of came about through my sponsorship with Bill (McAnally). I said I was interested in some day getting a store and one came available right in my backyard. So, I jumped on it."

Getting into business has not been without its challenges, however.

"There's definitely been a lot of work," Holmes said. "The store's been there for 37 years. It needed lots of work, a little bit more than we probably expected. We did a nice remodel and it looks really nice."

Holmes first talked to Tilbury about the idea of getting into some kind of business four years ago.

"I was into my 30s and I needed to figure out something to do," Holmes recalled. "All I had ever done was race."

They discussed the NAPA Auto Parts store in Escalon, which was owned by Tilbury's uncle.

"It was always something that I had my finger on -- that if I couldn't race, the auto parts business might be something I could look into," Holmes said. "Being in my hometown, it's something I knew I could be successful at."

Following the 2008 season, Holmes expressed his interest at a NAPA function in October and before long he and Tilbury were going into business.

It's an opportunity that was made possible because of his role with Bill McAnally Racing, said Holmes.

"Driving for Bill opened up my time to do something else," he explained. "When I drove for Allen (Beebe), I was in charge of everything and did all the work and everything. I would have never been able to run another business. "

In addition to his work at the NAPA stores during the off season, Holmes managed to find time to attend the NASCAR Champions Week celebration in Los Angeles and compete in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in January.

"All of that was really cool," he said of the champions' festivities. "The Peterson (Automotive) Museum was really interesting. It definitely was a great experience. Going to the museum, the Lakers game and the Jimmy Kimmel Show was cool and it was fun."

He also appreciated the chance to get to know other champions from across the country, Holmes said.

"Me and Matt (Kobyluck) get along really well and I got to know a few of the other guys," he said. "I got to spend some time with people away from the track and doing the media with NASCAR. I had a lot of fun doing it. For me, I had just got off working 60 straight days; so it was kind of a relief for me to get out of work and go down and enjoy myself."

From there, Holmes and the other champions headed to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. The half-mile track was a site where he and his BMR team did not do as well as they wanted in 2008.

"Last year, we struggled at Irwindale," Holmes said. "It's probably the only track we struggled at. We were really disappointed with our performance there last year."

So, he was pleased to show up for the all-star weekend with a car he felt could contend for the win.

"Man, I was excited about the car," Holmes said. "I really believe that between Brian Ickler and me, we had the cars to beat. I was just trying to make smart decisions on making changes to the car. I think we did that during our lap 100 break."

A mechanical problem just after that break ended his hopes of a win, however.

"I was pretty much cruising and we had a sway bar issue and that pretty much took us out of contention for the night," he said. "But it's really got me excited about the season, because I know we struggled there last year and we had a really, really good car when we went back."

Now Holmes is ready to turn his attention to the season opener, as the NASCAR Camping World Series West kicks off its 56th season with the Allstate Texas Thunder 150 at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas on March 14.

"I always look forward to going racing, but right now I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "Not that I want to get out of here, but I get out of work for a little bit and get to relax. I know I'm driving for one of the best teams and great sponsors. Last year, it was a lot of fun showing up and being the guy to beat every week."

Because he left the series after winning his first championship in 2006, he gets to do something this year that he's not done before.

"I've never defended a championship," he said. "So, I'm really looking forward to being able to defend the championship."

He knows it will be a tough challenge to repeat his title, however.

"Jason Bowles gave me a real run for the money last year and Mike David has stepped up his program," Holmes said. "And I'm sure we've got a few others that stepped it up, too. Hopefully, we'll have a real competitive year and keep us on our toes. I'm looking forward to it."

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Mike David , Eric Holmes , Jason Bowles , Brian Ickler