Turns out a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series substitute role was no sweat for Daniel Suarez at Sonoma Raceway. After replacing Carson Hocevar on lap 11 Saturday night (June 11), Suarez came back from two laps down to finish sixth in the DoorDash 250.
“The team did a very good job,” Suarez told FOX Sports 1. “I’m thankful I was able to help.”
Hocevar had broken the tibia in his right leg after a wreck on the last lap in the Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway the week before. He was alternating between walking around the garage on crutches and hopping around on one foot inside the Sonoma garage; however, he still managed to climb behind the wheel of the Niece Motorsports No. 42.
Suarez and Hocevar split time practicing the truck before the latter qualified it on the pole. But Hocevar wrecked the truck after claiming the top spot on the board, and the team had to go to a backup truck for the race, forfeiting the top starting spot.
Hocevar worked his way up into the top 25, but on lap 11, he came to pit road and yielded his seat to Suarez.
“It’s part of the process,” Hocevar told FOX Sports 1. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do the full race, and this is what the team and everybody thought was smartest, and I’ve got smarter people around me.”
Suarez noted the difficulty in getting in a truck that was prepared for a different driver, as he initially had issues with the shifter in practice.
“It’s tough to be 100 percent comfortable when I’m jumping in someone else’s truck,” Suarez said. “The only thing I had of mine was my steering wheel.”
Because Hocevar started the race, he received all of the points for Suarez’s finish. However, had Suarez won the race or either of the first two stages, Hocevar would not have received a guaranteed playoff spot or any playoff points.
Due to the driver change occurring under green flag conditions, the No. 42 truck went two laps down.
“It was busy, man, it was very busy,” Suarez said. “I was hoping to go one lap down. When we went two laps down, I was like, man, it’s gonna be a long recovery. I was hoping to recover quicker than that.”
Suarez got one lap back by taking the wave-around at the stage one break and later got the second lap back thanks to the free pass on a caution during the second stage. When many of the leaders pitted prior to the stage two break, Suarez stayed out and finished the stage in fifth to score six points for Hocevar.
But the No. 42 team lost all that track position by pitting under the stage two caution. So Suarez had to work his way up from the rear once again.
“The truck had speed,” Suarez said. “So I was hoping for long runs so I could be able to make some ground.”
Suarez survived a lot of late-race carnage and showed a lot of speed in the closing laps to take the sixth-place finish.
“It was a pretty decent day,” Suarez said. “I wish we could have won. The truck was actually capable of winning the race, but we just ran out of time.”
Thanks to Suarez’s effort in the Niece machine, Hocevar leaves Sonoma in better shape despite his injury. He’s eighth in points, now holding a 87-point cushion over the playoff cutline.
“I want to win the championship, and I want to be selfish,” Hocevar said. “And I wasn’t gonna be at my full capacity, obviously with the crash and then the injury. … Sometimes, the hardest decision may be the smartest one.”
The Trucks now head to Knoxville Raceway on June 18, and it remains to be seen whether Hocevar will be able to complete that full race as he continues to heal from injury.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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