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Central Valley drivers taking green flag Sunday

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Central Valley drivers taking green flag Sunday

Escalon resident Eric Holmes, left, and Stockton's Ross Strmiska will be among the starting field in Sunday's NASCAR Camping World Series West Bennett Lane Winery 200 at Infineon Raceway.

Photo by DONNY YEE/


POSTED June 20, 2009 1:35 a.m.
SONOMA — The Central Valley will be well represented in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Series West Bennett Lane Winery 200, presented by Supercuts, at Infineon Raceway

While Eric Holmes of Escalon, 2007 series champion Mike David of Modesto, Oakdale’s Wes Banks and Stockton’s Ross Strmiska will all be among the starting field that will be taking the green flag in Saturday’s 64-lap feature, they enter the event with vastly different agendas and expectations.

Holmes, the defending series champion who once again holds the points lead this season, is looking to win and anything less will be less than satisfying. Holmes loves driving on road courses and has done everything but visit victory lane in his 10 previous starts at Infineon in the Southwest Tour and the West Series, which replaced the Tour three years ago. His resume includes two poles and a frustrating runner up finish in last year’s race.

“Our goal is to win this race. It would really mean a lot,” said Holmes. “I have won a couple of championships and lot of big races at a lot of cool places, but this is number one on my list of the races I want to win.”

While Holmes desperately wants to celebrate in victory lane at his home track, he is also very cognizant of his position in the standings. Holmes has already compiled three wins and five top five finishes in just six starts this season in the No. 20 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing, but he holds just a 36-point (1,025-989) advantage over Ontario’s Jason Bowles and 64 point edge on third place David Mayhew of Atascadero.

“The point’s battle is so tight and I think the two guys right behind me are going to be on my bumper all day or I am going to be on theirs. I think all three of us will be fast,” said Holmes. “This race is really important in the points because with the large field and if you have a failure you can finish 40th and lose a ton. It makes it a little tougher because you have to be a little cautious.”

David, the 2007 series champion who currently sits in 4th in the standings with 942 points, is hoping that Saturday’s race can turn his season around and springboard him up the points ladder.

“We have been running fairly well all year, but we have been involved in a couple of incidents that have set us back earlier this season,” explained David. “We have everything in place here, but we just need to turn our luck around and everything will be fine.”

Turning things around on twisting 1.99-mile road course will be no small order for David, who prefers ovals and has failed to break into the top 20 in his three previous West Series starts at Infineon.

 “Some guys hate this place but I actually enjoy it. It is a challenge. I like driving everywhere in anything,” said David. “Last year we were running in the top five and we got into a crash with our teammate. Hopefully we can run up front again and stay out of trouble this year.”

David is also hoping to do well this weekend for race sponsor Bennett Lane Winery, which also is the primary sponsor of his No. 2 Ford.

 “It makes the weekend special, but there is no added pressure. Our owner (Randy Lynch) always wants us to do well and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves as it is,” said David. “We just want to run as hard as we can and do as well as we can.”

For Ross Strmiska, this weekend’s race will be strictly a learning experience. Strmiska, who sits second in the Western Late Model standings, has only three previous starts in the Camping World West Series and none on a road course.

We decided to come here just to get some seat time and gain a little experience,” said Strmiska. “We are getting better although we ran we got off track this morning and waded it up a bit.”

Strmiska does have some experience at Infineon, running in the Legends division twice, but it has not been that helpful to him this weekend.

“These cars are a whole other ball game,” sated Strmiska, age 22. “These are big, heavy cars and they are something to swing around the corners here. I am getting used to it though.”

Unlike Holmes and David, who are looking to run up front, Strmiska’s expectations for Saturday are much more tempered.

“My goal is a top 20 and to bring the car home in one piece with the motor running,” said Strmiska, who will be driving the No. 90 Mid Valley Iron/Machine Equipment Chevy. “The start will be pretty wild. We are going to back off and let people do what they have to do and try to get them later.”

To contact Dale Bosowski, e-mail dalebosowski@yahoo.com.

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