By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - You won't find Auburn sophomore Bret Holmes tailgating before football games with his fraternity brothers.
For Holmes, game days are race days.
"A lot of people my age like going to football games and tailgating, watching basketball or baseball. And I love watching those sports, too," said the 19-year-old. "I just have a different passion for racing. Really dedicated to it."
Holmes is a full-time student and a full-time race car driver.
He followed the standard progression, from Go Karts to dirt late models to asphalt racing as a high school student at Donoho in Anniston.
"I realized then that I'm good enough to do this," he said. "And I actually want to do this. This is something I really enjoy. Miss out on a lot of stuff for it."
This weekend, while his fellow Auburn students are enjoying fall break, Holmes will be at Kansas Speedway driving in the Kansas 150, his seventh race in the ARCA Series. Holmes finished in the top 10 in each of his previous ARCA races this year.
"I'm just following in the steps of people like Chase Elliott or Erik Jones," he said. "Some of those guys who mastered each level before they moved up. Proved themselves that they were good enough. I'm just trying to do the same thing they did. Show I want to be here."
Holmes hopes to race a full ARCA season in 2017. The next steps would be NASCAR's Truck Series, Xfinity Series, then the big time, Sprint Cup.
"There are only 42 Sprint Cup drivers," Holmes said. "People don't realize how much harder it is to make it in racing than it is in football. How many people does an NFL team carry to the field when they play? It's definitely a harder gap to get into."
Closing that gap takes sponsorship money.
"As you go up in these series, it takes a lot more resources to run," he said. "More people are going to sponsor you if you're winning races. Not if you're running middle of the pack. The better we do, the better off we're going to be. A good driver can't make a bad car win."
Holmes drives the No. 23 car on the ARCA circuit, the same number another Alabama driver, the late Davey Allison, drove in ARCA before switching to No. 28.
"I think that's really cool how that kind of correlated," he said. "That's something that I've been wanting to carry on, too, is the Alabama Gang tradition."
A building science major, Holmes says it's a struggle to juggle academics with auto racing. He loads up his classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving Fridays free for travel to the track.
"When you get back home on Sunday, all you want to do is sleep, but you've got to study and keep up the school work," he said.
If Holmes' driving career takes off, he might have to delay the completion of his education.
"The only thing I'm really afraid of is, if I do well now, and I have the opportunity to move up, I don't know if I'll be able to go to school and do this," he said. "I would love to graduate before I move on in racing. If I go up, and don't make it, I'm still going to come back and finish my school."
From North Carolina to Nashville to Kansas City, Holmes is an ambassador for Auburn at every racetrack.
"Auburn's the other half of the biggest part of my life. I go to school and race. That's all I do," he said. "I call this place home, now. I don't call where I was from home anymore. I really love saying that I'm a college student at Auburn and race at the same time."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) September 29, 2016
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer