KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Bret Holmes couldn’t chase down Cory Heim as the sun set on the ARCA Series finale at Kansas Speedway.
It didn’t really matter.
The 23-year-old from Munford, Alabama, won the series championship over Michael Self by finishing second Friday night. Holmes began the race eight points clear of Self, who had mechanical issues that put him one lap down early, and raced for the lead on a couple of restarts, but otherwise was content to stay out of trouble.
“I mean, the two things I’ve ever wanted was for my friends and family to be proud of me through racing and my team to have the same respect as others,” said Holmes, who owns his own team. “And I think we earned that today.”
The 29-year-old Self, who had a win and four top-five finishes in five starts at Kansas, rallied to get back on the lead lap and finished seventh. Derek Griffith was third with Dylan Lupton fourth and Drew Dollar fifth.
Hailie Deegan, who will make her national series debut in the NASCAR Truck Series race Saturday, finished sixth. She also locked up the rookie of the year award simply by rolling off the starting grid Friday night.
“I think just being able to get experience on the track has been super helpful,” Deegan said. “I think without practice, it’s going to help so much to have that little bit of seat time before.”
Holmes won the July race at Kansas for his only ARCA win in 81 career tries, but he was remarkably consistent in making each of the 20 starts in the season. He finished in the top 5 in all but six races and the top 10 in all but one, allowing him to build a considerable point lead over those who made a few more trips to victory lane.
“We’ve paid our dues and it’s a really special feeling,” Holmes said. “We’ve worked a long time for this. There’s been a lot of times I thought about quitting, but this team has built me great race cars and gave me a chance every week.”
Eighteen-year-old Ty Gibbs, whose age prevented him from making some of the starts at the bigger speedways, led the way in wins with six in just 16 starts. Sam Mayer had five wins in 13 starts this season.
While Holmes walked away with the series championship, Heim walked away with his first career ARCA win.
The 18-year-old high school student from Marietta, Georgia, has spent most of the year running the CARS Late Model Stock Tour for Lee Pulliam Performance. But he’d been solid in a couple of ARCA starts for Venturini Motorsports, finishing fourth in the Kansas race in July and eighth in the previous race at Illinois State Fairgrounds.
“Just really surreal right now. I’m kind of at a lack of words,” Heim said. “We were a little loose throughout the race but I couldn’t ask for much more the last run and here we are in victory lane.”