Less than two weeks ago, Tanner Holmes was nearing the end of his Midwest swing and prepared to head home to the west coast. That same night, the immediate future of his racing career changed drastically.
Holmes and his family-owned operation hauled their #18T Sprint Car out from Jacksonville, OR earlier this summer to gain more experience in the Midwest. The centerpiece of their stretch was the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals. And on the final night of The Granddaddy of ‘Em All, Holmes suddenly found himself no longer a regional racer who occasionally traveled, but a competitor on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car tour.
Bobby Allen, owner of Shark Racing and one of the most legendary figures of the sport, cruised over on his scooter to Holmes’ pit to see if the 19-year-old had any cemented plans for the duration of the year. The two had never talked. But by the end of the night, they agreed Holmes would join Shark Racing to finish out the 2023 World of Outlaws tour in the #1a, vacated by Jacob Allen.
“I’d never spoke with him before but said hello and introduced myself,” Holmes recalled. “Quickly, we started chatting, and he had mentioned that they were needing a driver to fulfill the seat of his car for the rest of the season. Of course, with that opportunity, I had to jump on it. My dad happened to be there as well, and we just quickly all kind of talked about it. I made sure [Bobby] knew how interested I was, but we just quickly needed to talk about it together as a team. I got back to him that night basically and shook his hand and said, ‘I’m in.’”
For Allen, the talent of the rising racer was clear. “Scruffy” had a simple message upon hiring Holmes: drive to his own capabilities and don’t try too hard.
“There’s no doubt about it. The kid is good. He’s got great potential,” Allen said. “I told him when he started. I said, ‘Let me tell you how I am. I don’t want someone ramming and crashing and all that. I want you to drive within your limits because I know everybody wants to win. And when you want to win and you feel good, you run as hard as you want to run.’ I said, ‘That’s how I like a driver. I don’t want somebody trying to impress me by going out there and driving over their head and crashing the car up. I want you to race.’”
Holmes took Allen’s words to heart, and the reward was a statement debut in the Shark Racing #1T at last weekend’s Jackson Nationals.
The three-night event began as strong as possible for Holmes who earned his first Simpson Quick Time on Thursday. He followed that up by landing on the podium at the conclusion of the 25-lap Feature. Over the next two nights, he tallied another pair of top 10s to complete the weekend at a track he’d never been to before. Holmes credits the team for being quick to adapt to his style.
“Quickly, they’ve made me feel comfortable,” Holmes said. “Little things in the cockpit that you have to change to make the driver feel at home. After a couple nights, this just feels like I’m running my own car. Even though it’s different engines, different frame, different setup, and what not, it still feels really, really good. What these guys are doing is, I think, transferring also with my driving style.”
The timing of Holmes joining the team was nearly perfect. After this weekend’s North Dakota doubleheader at River Cities Speedway and Red River Valley Speedway, Holmes gets to head to familiar territory. Next weekend brings Skagit Speedway’s Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals in Burlington, WA before a visit to Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, WA the following Monday. Following that will be two weekends in California to complete the west coast swing.
The Oregon driver has turned plenty of laps at each track that’s a part of the left-coast tour, and he views the stretch as an opportunity to make some noise with his new team. Shark Racing won half of the six west coast races last September.
“I think it’s little things even like rolling into the racetrack and you know where you’re at. You know how things might go. You know what you might see with the racetrack,” Holmes said of being at tracks he’s familiar with. “When they do things at Jackson, for example, I don’t know when they work the track what is going to happen. I’ve never seen it before… But maybe going to a place like Skagit or Chico, running many shows there you see tendencies that happen. You see what the racetrack does, what lines come into play. All of that comes from experience. That’s really big and I think could really help us.”
After the swing close to home, it’s off to primarily new ground for Holmes as the Series ventures back east. There will undoubtedly be challenges as he takes on this new chapter of his career, but it’s clear he’s already fitting in and fully supported by his new team.
“It seems like right now we’ve got a good team going with him,” Allen said. “The boys are happy with him. We’re happy with him. Jacob called him to congratulate him. We’re all happy with him.”
To see Holmes in action this weekend in North Dakota or at any of the west coast wing races, CLICK HERE for tickets.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.