Corey Heim passed Bret Holmes for the lead on Lap 19 of Friday night’s Speediatrics 150 presented by The NASCAR Foundation at Kansas Speedway. Despite valiant efforts on multiple restarts through the last 82 laps, Holmes could not get back around the eventual race winner.
And he could not possibly have cared less.
Holmes, 23, was thrilled to finish second in his No. 23 Golden Eagle Syrup Chevrolet, as it gave the Munford, Alabama, native more than enough points to clinch the 2020 ARCA Menards Series championship over second-place Michael Self.
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Holmes’ title continued a trend in the ARCA Menards Series. Since Frank Kimmel won his 10th series championship in 2013, there have been seven consecutive first-time champions: Mason Mitchell in 2014, Grant Enfinger in 2015, Chase Briscoe in 2016, Austin Theriault in 2017, Sheldon Creed in 2018, Christian Eckes in 2019 and Holmes in 2020.
Yet Holmes, who competes for his family team of Bret Holmes Racing, entered the season not knowing whether he would run a full schedule let alone compete for a title.
He entered the finale with an eight-point lead over Self in the standings, so many considered Holmes the favorite to leave Kansas City, Kansas, as a champion.
Still, vindication defined Holmes’ emotion when he raised the trophy.
Bret Holmes gets his respect
An emotional Holmes after Friday’s race said there are only two things he has ever wanted. One was for his friends and family to be proud of him through racing. The 2020 ARCA Menards Series champion obviously can check that box.
The other was for his team to receive the same amount of respect as that extended to others.
Just a few minutes of real time after Holmes expressed this desire, Self delivered. The 29-year-old who finished second in the ARCA Menards Series standings for the second consecutive year spoke like a man who knew his team had lost to a superior one.
"You know what, it’s OK," said Self. "Life goes on. It’s disappointing, but my hat’s off to Bret and (crew chief Shane Huffman) and those guys. They did a really, really good job this year, and they had a lot of speed every race.
"They never made any mistakes."
Checkered flag out at @kansasspeedway!
– @CoreyHeim3 gets his first victory ?
– ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) October 16, 2020
Holmes earned his title in pretty much every measurable way. He completed all but five possible laps throughout the season, earning him the S&S Volvo Laps Completed title for the second year in a row.
He led the series with 14 top-five finishes and 20 top-10 finishes in 20 races. He led 393 laps, by far the most among drivers who raced the full season.
I just wanna say thank you to everyone who congratulated us on winning the @ARCA_Racing championship, still hasn’t really sit in yet!! To think this small group took on & was able to beat a group of competitors like we had is truly humbling & overwhelming for myself #blessed
– Shane Huffman (@HuffdaddyShane) October 19, 2020
"It’s been a tough road, for sure," said Holmes. "Everything we’ve done has just been phenomenal this season, every decision we’ve made. To come out and not even know we were going to run the full season, and to finish it off like this is really special.
"To move to the next level, if it’s going to take me scratching and starving, that’s what I’m going to do. Because I know we deserve to be here."
And now everybody else knows, too.
Corey Heim’s statement
Heim, 18, entered Friday’s race at Kansas with just one top-five finish in 15 ARCA Menards Series starts, leading a total of 15 laps through those events.
So the Speediatrics 150 presented by The NASCAR Foundation, in which he led 82 of 100 laps in his No. 10 Craftsman Toyota en route to his first victory, can be considered his breakout performance in the series.
Heim, whose car was entered by 1995 series champion Andy Hillenburg and prepared by Venturini Motorsports, said he was loose throughout the race. He credited crew chief Kevin Reed Jr. for "dialing [him] in" and making him virtually uncatchable in the closing laps.
Heim became the series’ 344th different winner with his victory at Kansas. He also became the fifth first-time winner in 2020, joining Drew Dollar, Holmes, Sam Mayer and Ryan Unzicker.
Heim’s performance earned him the the Valvoline Lap Leader and Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader awards for the race, and Reed took Cometic Crew Chief of the Race honors.
Hailie Deegan’s rookie success
When Hailie Deegan brought her No. 4 Toter Ford home sixth at Kansas, marking her 17th top-10 finish of the season, she earned herself third place in the final ARCA Menards Series standings.
She also finished 30 points ahead of second-place Drew Dollar in the Bounty Rookie Challenge standings.
Deegan, 19, would be the first female driver in series history to take the title.
Deegan, who has three wins in what’s now the ARCA Menards Series West, finished the 2020 ARCA Menards Series season with four top-five finishes, including second place in the opener at Daytona and another second in the year’s penultimate race on the dirt at Springfield.
- Holmes became the 37th different driver to earn at least one ARCA Menards Series championship with his second-place finish in the Speediatrics 150 presented by The NASCAR Foundation.
- Holmes led the series with 14 top-five finishes, followed by Self with 13, Ty Gibbs and Mayer with 12, and Chandler Smith and Taylor Gray with eight apiece.
- Twenty-four different drivers scored at least one top-five finish in 2020.
- Holmes also led the way with 20 top-10 finishes, followed by Self with 18, Deegan with 17, Dollar and Gibbs with 14, Mayer with 12, Gray with 11 and Chandler Smith with 10.
- Fifty drivers earned at least one top-10 finish in 2020.
- There were five first-time winners in 2020: Dollar, Holmes, Mayer, Unzicker and Heim. Coincidentally, Holmes and Mayer won for the first time in back-to-back races at Kansas and Toledo in July, and Unzicker and Heim won in back-to-back races at Springfield and Kansas in October. Dollar’s victory came in June at Talladega in the series’ return to racing following a break for the COVID-19 outbreak.