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Escalon’s Holmes 23rd in Stop Hunger 200

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Escalon’s Holmes 23rd in Stop Hunger 200

Escalon’s Eric Holmes en route to a 23rd place finish on Saturday.

JEFF BURGHARDT/Special to the Bulletin

POSTED June 25, 2012 1:50 a.m.

SONOMA — Eric Holmes came into the K & N Pro Series Saturday on a mission to win his first race of the season and attempt to gain ground on the season point leaders.

Holmes before the races was the highest driver in the season point standings without a win. A second generation racer from Escalon, whose father raced at Stockton 99 speedway, Holmes  came in with 16-career event wins. Yet, with all those wins, he had yet to win an event at either of his “home tracks”, Stockton 99 or Sonoma. It was his goal, to correct one of the statistics by getting a win at Sonoma.

Things looked good, after final qualifying, as Holmes found himself sitting on the inside of the 2nd row in the 3rd qualifying position. Sitting on the pole was Greg Pursley of Newhall, Ca. The 2nd qualifier was (Current series point leader) Dylan Kwasniewski of Las Vegas. Michael Self of Park City, UT was qualified 4th. In addition to other regulars, such as Derek Thorn of Lakeport, Ryan Philpott of Tracy, Carlos Vierra of Atwater, two drivers from the premier NASCAR Sprint Cup Series were also qualified in the field. David Mayhew, who was in for (regular) Michael McDowell in the #98 NASCAR Sprint Cup car at this years cup race at Sonoma and David Gilliland, a regular driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, would both be doing double duty this weekend. With these two Sprint Cup Series drivers in the field, capturing a checkered flag was not going to be easy.

When the green flag waved, Greg Pursley in the #26 car, took the early lead, followed by Holmes, Dylan Kwasniewski and Michael Self. The big mover was David Gilliland in the #25 Pick N’ Pull sponsored Chevrolet, who moved up quickly from his 7th qualifying position to challenge the leaders within 10 laps. David Mayhew, the other Sprint Cup driver, started 5th in his #17 Chevrolet and quickly got by Dylan Kwasniewski and started to run down Eric Holmes for the 2nd position. Holmes found himself in the 5th position, as the race progressed, as he chose a “fuel and tire conservation” strategy. This strategy would pay off for Holmes as he would take over the lead on lap 32 of the 64 lap race. He then started to drive away from the field until about lap 40, when David Gilliland started to make a run at him. Eric was quicker on the race track between turns 12 and 4, but Gilliland was quicker between turns 4 through 12. It looked like this was going to develop into a tight battle, until suddenly; the engine expired in Holmes’ NAPA batteries Toyota on the 45th lap, ending his day, after leading the race for 13-laps. Gilliam would assume the lead and not relinquish it, taking the checkered flag ahead of Derek Thorn and Greg Pursley. Ryan Philpott from Tracy, finished 14th and Carlos Vierra from Atwater finished 17th. Holmes of Escalon finished in the 23rd position. David Mayhew finished in the 9th position.

It was a special win and weekend for the Sprint Cup Series Regular, David Gilliland from Riverside. On Thursday, coming into the event weekend, he introduced his father, Butch, into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. This was his second K & N Pro West Series win on the challenging 1.99-mile Sonoma road course, matching the two wins his father (Butch) had at the same track during his career.

With the completion of the raced, Dylan Kwasniewski (345 points) sits on top of the point standings, 8 points up on Greg Pursley (337), with David Mayhew 3rd (317), Derek Thorne 4th (307) and Holmes in 5th (281).

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