Senior Bret Holmes races toward a degree and car racing glory

GROWING UP 10 MINUTES FROM TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY, Auburn senior Bret Holmes figures he was born to race.

“You’d hear the cars from the back porch,” said Holmes, who began racing Go Karts as a 6-year-old. “I got my start at Talladega Short Track.”

From dirt late model racing to asphalt racing, Holmes steadily progressed. He’s currently racing professionally on the ARCA Menards Series, the premier division of the Automobile Racing Club of America, while studying in Auburn’s McWhorter School of Building Science in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction.

“I’ve always been an Auburn fan. I’ve always been at home here even when I was a kid. It just felt right.”

Holmes’ family owns Holmes Excavating, a construction company in Munford, Ala. specializing in dirt grading and utility line  installation. “That’s something I want to fall back on if racing doesn’t work out. It’s been a family company for a long time.”

Holmes’ building science cohort members became a fan club of sorts, eager to engage with racing rivals who knock their friend and fellow student into the wall.

“My pride is seeing our team grow from where it started when we were fighting for top tens. Now we’re fighting for wins.”

“They all watch me race, and they dog the other drivers that beat me or run into me. They cheer like crazy when we do well.”

Holmes’ buddies had plenty to cheer about in July when Holmes took his first checkered flag in the ARCA Series at Kansas Speedway.

“It was really big for us. It’s taken a few years to get where we are right now, competing in the top three, top five, every week. We’re facing 20 to 40 other drivers. My pride is seeing our team grow from where it started when we were fighting for top tens. Now we’re fighting for wins.”

Holmes won the 2020 ARCA Menards Series championship at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 17, winning one race and finishing in the top five an incredible 14 times. Not bad for a guy whose car is sponsored by his family’s business.

“Racing is very expensive. I’m trying to prove to companies that this is a good investment. That’s what I’m working toward. My team that we created a few years ago is competing with the likes of Joe Gibbs Racing, teams that are affiliated with NASCAR teams and that get manufacturing support. “It’s really cool to see my team competing with teams that have who knows how much resources compared to us.”

For several years, Holmes raced in a helmet with an Auburn logo, delighting race fans who pull for the Tigers.

While chasing a championship, Holmes continues to work on his thesis project. He plans to graduate in December, earning his degree in five and a half years while racing from coast to coast. “It’s been tough and challenging but I really enjoy construction management. Auburn is my second home. It’s a place I can come to and come down from all of that pressure and stress from
the weekend.”

After claiming the ARCA Series championship, Holmes hopes to advance to the NASCAR truck series, then XFinity, on his way to the ultimate destination. “That’s always been my dream, to make it into one of the top three series of NASCAR. It’s a tough sport to make it in. There are only 40 drivers who get to go to the top level.”

With only a few coveted NASCAR Cup Series spots opening up each season, Holmes knows the challenge ahead. But one look in the rearview mirror reveals how far he’s already come—on the track and in the lab at Gorrie Center. “Auburn provided people who are behind me and in my corner. It’s been a home for a lot of friendships that will last for a long time. It’s been amazing.”

By Jeff Shearer, senior writer at @jeff_shearer