Holmes Chomping at Bit, Looking for Breakthrough Victory in Pro Trucks 30 Lapper on Friday

Holmes Chomping at Bit, Looking for Breakthrough Victory in Pro Trucks 30 Lapper on Friday

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By Chuck Corder

For so many years, Clint Holmes found little delight in going to Five Flags Speedway or any other racetrack, for that matter.

An engine builder in a previous life, racetracks often meant work all over and no play for Holmes. And, the collateral damage of racing drivers who you’re building engines for.

“Competing against your customers is not the best idea,” Holmes readily admits.

But after the Pensacola native, who turned 42 earlier this week on Monday, closed the machine shop in 2014 he found a better reason than work to head to the track.

Holmes was in the shop of Greg Janes, who builds and helps with many local cars that race at Five Flags, and feasted his eyes upon Shanna Ard’s Pro Trucks truck.

“I loved the look of it,” said Holmes, who owns and operates Clint Holmes Automotive, a used car dealership at the corner of Nine Mile and Chemstrand. “Two weeks later, I had the truck.”

After a lengthy layoff, Holmes has returned to Pensacola’s high banks this season and has quickly become one of the Pro Trucks division’s top contenders.

A 2001 Snowball Derby champion in the then-Spectator class, Holmes hopes to get his first Pro Trucks win this Friday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.

In addition to the Pro Trucks’ 30 lapper, Five Flags will host its annual kids bicycle races, as well as the Modifieds of Mayhem (50 laps), The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen (25) and the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks (20).

Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday. Admission is $10 for all fans 12-and-older; children ages 6 to 11 $5; kids 5-and-under is free.

Holmes started racing at Five Flags when he was just 14 before moving to dirt tracks where he raced late models all across the Gulf Coast.

His father began the family’s engine building business with young Clint growing up out around Five Flags.

“My dad was always involved in racing,” Holmes said. “I started out racing Fords. I always raced them. I probably would be now, but in the trucks we use Chevy crate engines.”

When he saw Ard’s truck that day in Janes’ shop, Holmes got weak in the knees. Without many trips to the track in recent years, he had to be informed that Five Flags was racing trucks these days.

“I didn’t know they were racing trucks and I didn’t know anything about them,” Holmes admitted. “I just really appreciate the look of them.”

A match made in heaven. Or, more accurately, on the Internet — exactly where Holmes turned to as he searched for a truck of his own.

He has only raced it four times, but the white-and-baby blue No. 18 — sponsored by Jeff Hamner of Hamner Racing — sits fourth in points thanks to three top-four finishes in the last four races. Holmes missed the season opener in early March because business was so good at his dealership.

“We’re learning as we go,” said Holmes, who gets help on the car mostly from Jason Walker and Charlie Phillips while Josh Goodwin spots for him. “I’ve gotta take some responsibility. Some of it is me and my lack of seat time from being away so long. Five Flags has changed a bit, it seems, when you get in the corner.

“We’re not good as I want it to be, but we’re really close. I made a bunch of changes earlier this year and got way outta left field. We’ve gotten back pretty close to where it was.”

His most recent podium finish, a third earlier this month, served notice that the Pro Trucks class might have the most parity of any local series at Five Flags.

“(Jarrett) Parker’s always fast, and obviously won the Derby,” Holmes said. “Jay Jay (Day) is fast. Jason Welch, over the last three weeks, has really been hitting on something. And then there’s Jensen Jorgensen and Shanna, too. There are a bunch of trucks that can win, it seems like.”

Holmes hopes his first win is right around Turn No. 4 this Friday night.

“Obviously, that’s the goal,” Holmes said. “You wanna win every time you race. But I’ve been fortunate in all the years I raced at Five Flags, that we were competitive and won a lotta races. And, you also have to be realistic. And, right now, I’m not happy running third.”

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