Ryan Musialowski | ARCARacing.com
Bret Holmes has defied the odds in 2020 by taking his family-operated Bret Holmes Racing team to the top of the pack while fighting off multi-car teams with ties to NASCAR’s top three series.
Holmes and the No. 23 Holmes II Excavation bunch will have to wait for next Friday night’s ARCA Kansas 150 to see if they will be crowned as the 2020 ARCA Menards Series champions, but that has yet to stop Holmes from collecting other hardware in the meantime.
With a third-place result on the dirt at the Springfield Mile on Sunday, Holmes clinched the CGS Imaging Four Crown title, etching his name on the trophy for one of ARCA’s most prestigious in-season championships for the second year in a row.
Formerly known as the Bill France Four Crown, named in honor of the NASCAR founder and longtime ally of ARCA, drivers hopeful of winning the CGS Imaging Four Crown must showcase their driving talents at four diverse venues throughout the season. The rules are simple: The driver with the most cumulative race points over the four designated events takes the Four Crown. Bonus points for winning, leading laps, or starting from the General Tire Pole are not counted towards a driver’s Four Crown total.
The CGS Imaging Four Crown was first awarded in 1984, with the inaugural trophy going to the late Davey Allison in his rookie season in the ARCA Menards Series.
For the 2020 season, the CGS Imaging Four Crown would be contested at a superspeedway (Michigan International Speedway), a road course (the Daytona International Speedway road course), a short track (Memphis International Raceway) and a dirt track (the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds). Due to pandemic-related schedule changes, the Four Crown would not kick off until the Aug. 9 running of the VizCom 200 at Michigan, kicking off the four-race chase for the title.
The day at Michigan was dominated by Holmes, who led 61 of the 100 laps. But in the final green flag run to the finish, Riley Herbst (No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota) slowly pulled away from Holmes to take the win for the superspeedway leg of the Four Crown.
Herbst and Holmes swapped the lead six times between themselves over the course of the race. While Herbst exited Michigan with the lead in the Four Crown standings, the VizCom 200 was his final scheduled AMS start of the season, which left Holmes as the de facto point leader after the first round.
Up next for AMS drivers was the debut of the Daytona road course at the General Tire 100, delayed several hours by storms that pushed the event to be run entirely at night. Road course ace Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) was widely considered to be the favorite, coming off of a third-place run at Michigan, while Four Crown point leader Holmes was very open about his lack of experience making both left and right turns.
Sure enough, Self drove to the lead with six laps to go and left the field in the dust as he scooted away for the win. Combined with Holmes’ finish of eighth, Self leapfrogged Holmes in the CGS Imaging Four Crown standings and held a six-point lead at the halfway point of the championship.
A gap of over a month separated the short track leg of the Four Crown from the front half of the schedule. The Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 from Memphis International Raceway played host to Round 3 of the CGS Imaging Four Crown, in addition to the finale of the Sioux Chief Showdown.
Much like at Michigan, Holmes was the class of the field for the majority of the day, but the No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota slipped past him late – only with Ty Gibbs behind the wheel this time instead of Herbst. Holmes finished third while Self ran sixth, giving Self a three-point lead ahead of the dirt round at Springfield.
Self returned to Springfield as the defending race winner, but his main adversary of Holmes had far more experience on dirt thanks to his days of racing at the Talladega short track. A wild day ensued at the Illinois Truck & Equipment Allen Crowe 100, as the event was slowed by nine cautions, including a yellow with three laps to go that collected Holmes and knocked Self out of the race.
Self climbed out of his car under the ensuing red flag, saddled with a ninth-place finish, leaving Holmes to control his own destiny for the upcoming green-white-checkered. Holmes would clinch the Four Crown if he could finish four positions ahead of Self. Popular local dirt ringer Ryan Unzicker (No. 24 RJR Transportation Chevrolet) drove to his first career AMS win, and Holmes achieved his goal by crossing the line in third, sewing up the title by a margin of 160-157 over Self.
Holmes won the CGS Imaging Four Crown for the second year in a row, and in remarkably similar fashion to his 2019 title, as well. Holmes won last year when Four Crown leader Self encountered suspension trouble at the short track leg at Salem, forcing Self to go behind the wall for lengthy repairs while Holmes capitalized for the unlikely award win.
Holmes joins a list of six other ARCA stalwarts that are multi-time winners of the CGS Imaging Four Crown: two-time winners Lee Raymond, Grant Adcox, Bobby Bowsher and Bob Keselowski; three-time winner Tim Steele; and seven-time winner Frank Kimmel.
Previously, the most recent driver to win the award in consecutive seasons had been Kimmel in 2007 and 2008. As the championship leader heading into the final race of the 2020 ARCA Menards Series season at Kansas Speedway, Holmes will look to become the first driver to win the Four Crown and the overall ARCA Menards Series championship in the same year since Austin Theriault accomplished the feat in 2017.
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