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Thursday October 22, 2015

The last time we saw Caleb Holman he was walking away from a mid-race crash that wiped out what looked to be a career night.

Running in sixth place a few laps past the halfway point in the NASCAR Camping World Series night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in late August, Holman got caught up in somebody else’s wreck. Leaving the fourth turn, he suddenly had no place to go and was pinched hard into the outside wall.

A storybook night and a Cinderella finish was over in a flash for Holman and his Henderson Motorsports team.

“I try to keep everything in perspective. It’s just a sport. We’ve got a lot of other things going on in the world, so my little crash at Bristol is not that big,” said Holman. “But in the moment, it was hard to take. We just have to keep going.”

But that’s all in the rearview mirror now. Martinsville Speedway and the Kroger 200 on October 31 are looming large in the windshield of his Food Country USA Chevy.

“I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get to Martinsville. I love being in a race car and I love the competition,” said Holman. “I just don’t get to scratch that itch as much as I want.”

Holman and the Henderson team are a rarity in today’s racing world. They run only a few select events on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule every year, but when they show up at a track, they are competitive. The Bristol run was proof of that. So was a sixth-place qualifying effort at Iowa earlier this year and an 11th-th place finish in last fall’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville.

“We give 100 percent effort and we have good equipment. Charlie (team owner Charlie Henderson) has no desire to go and just race,” said Holman. “But you have to consider there are only two of us. It takes us seven weeks (time between Bristol and Martinsville) for us to get better, to get things together. We don’t do this because it’s easy though. That’s my favorite saying.”

Holman and veteran NASCAR crew chief Chris Carrier, the team’s only other fulltime employee who joined the team about this time last fall, had their hands full the past few weeks.

“We’ve been rebuilding the truck. That’s about all we’ve gotten done since Bristol,” said Holman. “We needed to replace the entire left side. The only thing that was left that was usable was the window net. We take our time and try to do everything right.

“We only get seven or eight races a year. We have to make the most of it.”

Tucked away in Abingdon, far from the NASCAR hub in the Charlotte area, Holman and Henderson Motorsports are virtually unknown to many race fans. But both are steeped in racing history.

Henderson has fielded a team in various NASCAR divisions since the 1970s, always carrying the colors of Food Country USA, the regional grocery chain he owns. His cars have been piloted by drivers with pretty familiar names, like Morgan Shepherd, Ernie Irvan, Jimmy Spencer, Brad Teague, Jimmy Hensley and many others.

The 31-year-old Holman is a second generation driver with dozens of wins on short tracks around the Southeast. He won the Pro Cup Series championship last year with six wins and eight poles. His father is Darrell Holman, who competed for many years in the old NASCAR Daytona Dash Series.

Holman has been the team’s driver for a decade.

“Jay Sauter had left and I was like ‘put me in coach’,” said Holman, who was working in the team’s shop at the time while he was racing at weekly tracks on his own throughout the area.

“It was kind of snowballed from there. It was kind of like sneaking through a door right before it closes.”



Tags: Entertainment, Henry County, Martinsville, Martinsville Speedway, Motorsports, NASCAR, ,