They’ve each raced Talladega SuperSpeedway four times. They’ve each led laps. Gus Dean has been to Victory Lane.
Come Saturday, Dean and ARCA Menards Series veteran are hoping their experience on the 2.66-mile oval will pay off in the form of a win in the General Tire 200 at Talladega.
The other thing they have him common: There’s no replicating what it’s like to race ‘Dega, until you’ve actually been out there.
“The race brings a whole other aspect of it because you’re never going to be in that big of a pack in practice,” said Dean in a video conference call with media this week. “You can sim race a lot and that helps and you can talk to people but until you get out there and feel what it’s like, that’s really the place you learn.
“It’s all about timing and patience.”
Said Holmes: “We figured Talladega would be one of our first ones back. It was tough for sure. We appreciate all of our guys for being able to work with us and work through it. It should pay off.”
Dean will drive the No. 32 MASHONIT Apparel Company Chevrolet for car owner Kevin Cywinski. The 25-year-old from Bluffton, South Carolina, ran both the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races at Daytona.
He finished 15th in the Truck Series last season, moving up after making 52 ARCA Menards Series starts. He posted two wins: At Minnesota’s Elko Speedway in 2018 and his first win, at Talladega in 2016.
“When you get to the closing laps and you know you’re in a position to win you start counting down the laps, and you’re counting every corner,” said Dean, who edged runner-up Josh Williams and third-place Chase Briscoe in a race that ended under caution. “Honestly you’re just trying to forget that it’s the end of the race. You want to drive a little harder at the end of the race but you don’t want to get yourself psyched out and let your nerves ruin your chances. It definitely got a little crazy at the end.”
For Holmes, a win in the No. 23 Holmes Excavation Chevrolet would have extra meaning aside from being his first series victory. The 23-year-old grew up just 20 minutes from the race track.
“There is a lot of pressure that comes from racing here,” said Holmes, whose best finish at Talladega was a ninth in 2016. “Not only that, but just from being here and racing across the road at the dirt track. The success of the Alabama Gang at Talladega. I want to be a part of that. I want to win here more than any place we race at.”
“A win here would mean more than anywhere else,” @bretholmes_2 says of Talladega
— Brian Eberly (@beberly18) June 17, 2020
Holmes returns home with momentum on his side.
When the Toledo Speedway race was moved on the ARCA Menards Series East schedule, it opened up an opportunity. Holmes, who finished school at Auburn University in late April, made the decision to race. It paid off, as he finished third behind race winner Ty Gibbs and runner-up Sam Mayer.
“We decided it would be great to come out and get the guys back in the swing of things and for me to get back into race shape,” said Holmes. “It got me into a good mind set with where I need to be headed to Talladega.”
For Dean, it will his first time back in a race car since Daytona.
However, he’ll be one of the few in the field with multi-race experience.
“The biggest things you learn is that you can go to the front row to last in three laps and you can go from last to the front on three laps,” said Dean. “The big one is always going to happen at Daytona and Talladega.
“It’s all patience and not being in a bad spot.”