There was a chance entering the 2020 ARCA Menards Series season that Bret Holmes would fail to run a complete schedule. The 23-year-old likely would have just spent more time working toward his building science degree at Auburn University, instead.
Yet when Holmes joined a Zoom class session to work on his senior thesis project on Monday, Oct. 19, he did so fewer than 72 hours after winning the 2020 ARCA Menards Series championship.
Holmes was the series’ underdog story for the year. His fifth season in the competition yielded his first victory and his first title, both of which arrived at Kansas Speedway. This underdog story was about vindication — for the young driver, for his father and car owner Stacy Holmes, for his crew chief Shane Huffman and for everybody who helped the family team of Bret Holmes Racing take an ARCA Menards Series championship.
“The two things I’ve ever wanted was for my friends and family to be proud of me through racing, and for my team to have the same respect as the others,” said Holmes after he clinched the title in the season finale at Kansas on Oct. 16. “I think we’ve earned that today. We paid our dues, and it’s a really special feeling.
“We’ve worked a long time for this. There’s been many times where I thought about quitting, but I had a lot of people that didn’t give up on me, and this team, they just built me great race cars, cars to win every week. It just makes it real special. I’m real proud of them.”
After Holmes finished ninth in the season opener at Daytona, a communication issue led to a 15th-place finish a month later at Phoenix. The COVID-19 pandemic then kept the series off the track until late June, but when it returned, Holmes began the hot streak that ultimately ended with his championship.
Holmes put together eight top-five finishes in nine races from the June 20 race at Talladega to the Aug. 9 race at Michigan. The run included his first win, at Kansas on July 24. He dominated that race, leading 82 of the 100 laps.
“We’ve been working so hard for this,” said Holmes after his victory. “I’ve been working my whole life for this. My team did this for me. It’s been a long tough road. I just thank my family and my friends. They believed in me when I didn’t.
“It’s tough being the underdog. Tired as hell. I drove my ass off. We’re going to keep our head down and get some more.”
Holmes didn’t win another race in 2020, but he also did not finish worse than eighth the rest of the season. And the end-of-year stats confirmed his worthiness of the title.
On top of the ARCA Menards Series championship, Holmes won his second straight CGS Imaging Four Crown title after earning the most combined points at four unique tracks — a superspeedway (Michigan), a road course (the Daytona), a short track (Memphis) and a dirt track (Springfield Mile).
In addition, Holmes’ team won the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge, a special series within the greater ARCA Menards Series overall championship that is comprised of races on the schedule at paved ovals greater than 1.5 miles in length.
Holmes 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.
Not bad for an underdog.