Ever since he arrived on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series scene, Carson Hocevar has been turning heads.
The 20-year-old has not shied away from being himself at the track, and he has proven that he belongs in the sport time and time again. Yet one thing was missing from his record since he joined Niece Motorsports full-time in 2021: a win. No matter how fast he was, something always seemed to prevent the No. 42 driver from breaking through.
That all changed this past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway on April 1, when the race played into Hocevar’s hands on the final lap to earn his first career win.
Hocevar also broke into the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year, making his debut for SS Green Light Racing at Circuit of the Americas. He will also drive six races for Spire Motorsports in the series.
Frontstretch caught up with Hocevar in March to discuss his deal with Spire in Xfinity, where his focus is now and his activities outside the racecar.
Luken Glover, Frontstretch: You have the new Xfinity deal. How excited are you for that and the opportunity with Spire Motorsports?
Carson Hocevar: I’m pretty excited. It’ll just help everything. It will allow me to go race extra and get more laps, being able to work with a different group of guys and getting a little more technical advance to help the day job on Friday. That’s the ultimate priority, to go win a [Truck] championship and go run for a championship with the [No.] 42 team. But having those extra will just kind of help me stay in a racecar and grow as a driver.
Glover: How did that deal come together?
Hocevar: There was a little bit of discussion for a long time, a lot of different Xfinity teams. This deal kind of came together through JRM [JR Motorsports] and Spire. It just helped all parties and allowed me to race a little bit more, and I had some partners that were interested in doing it, and WWEX covering and doing a whole season with me. All the support with Niece Motorsports and Al Niece just kind of allowed me to be able to do this deal. It’s kind of a privilege to be in this opportunity and go out and try to learn, just to have a breath of fresh air while I try and go win a championship.
Glover: When you look at this Xfinity deal, what are the goals for that?
Hocevar: Just running laps; I think we should be able to run in the top 10 every day, that’s kind of how I look at it. If I had top-10 runs in all six [races], I’d be really happy. The whole raw goal is, there’s about 12 good cars, and being one of the cars that runs 10th is a good day, and anything more than that is probably above expectations. I think that’s a realistic goal.
Glover: Are there any drivers you are leaning on in that series or Cup guys with experience there for notes?
Hocevar: It’s all pretty new to me. Obviously, I’ve talked to Ross [Chastain] a lot. Ross kind of pointed me [to this] deal and helped navigate me, not in a real logical sense, but I was on the phone a lot with him and kind of asking questions, making sure I was doing the right things and that this was the right spot, right time. He was really supportive of this.
Glover: You ran the Chili Bowl this year. Did you enjoy your time there?
Hocevar: I love the Chili Bowl. It’s probably my favorite week of the year, it is so much fun. I don’t run well in it, I haven’t run midgets enough, but it’s so much fun.
Just a lot of different people in different areas, and we’re all stress-free. I met Santino Ferrucci, Chase Briscoe and [Alex] Bowman was there. Everybody is stress-free there because they know how hard it is. Everybody’s goals are different. One of their goals is to make the A Main on prelim night, some are to make the A Main on Saturday, but they all know they’re not really going to have a shot to win because the same three or four guys win there all the time because they’re so good.
So the stress level there when we go to asphalt and go to our normal deal, we want to win. Otherwise, it’s not good enough, and we’re all worried and all stressed. Where [at the Chili Bowl], you’re just having fun and you only run one night. Then you have four nights to hang out, party and meet people, so it’s a lot of fun.
Glover: What are the biggest disparities between NASCAR and racing a quarter midget?
Hocevar: It’s so different. You run eight-lap heat races, you run 30-lap features and it’s sideways and super light. You’re flying in those things nonstop because there is no weight rule, so the second you hit the throttle, it wants to wheelie, and it wants to spike up when you hit the cushion. It’s all sorts out of shape, and the track changes every single lap. It’s just so different that it’s really, really fun just to be in a totally different zip code.
Glover: Do you plan to run some more quarter midget races?
Hocevar: I’d like to do a few midget races before the Chili Bowl just to kind of be able to do it and be ready for it. If I do the Chili Bowl again, that’s how I’d want to do it.
Glover: You had the tweet with the “7,” and it was pretty funny watching the reaction to that. What are your thoughts on how the NASCAR world responded to that?
Hocevar: Yeah, I didn’t mean to blow it up that bad and start the Cup rumors. I was like, “Ah, I should probably tease this because that’s what everybody does.” […] I’m not going to do the pen [emoji]. I was like, it gets released at 7 [p.m.], I’ll just tweet a “seven.” And I was like, “Wait, if I just do ‘seven,’ I’ll retweet it, and it’ll be seven- seven on the page, and it’s like 7 p.m. OK, cool … tweet.”
My phone was dead when I was at the shop, and everyone was talking about, “Hey, you’re driving a Cup car? Look at this.” And they started showing me, and I thought, “Oh, that’s not what I meant to do. Then Hendrick [Motorsports] tweeted about it, and it must have gotten so much press that they had to make sure everyone knew Josh [Berry] was driving [in relief of Chase Elliott still].
It got 200,000 impressions, which I think was double the actual release. It’s crazy because I only used one character and tweeted it. That apparently means somebody is driving a Cup car, and I’m driving a different Cup car, and some guy is out while the next guy is in.
Glover: Obviously, you’ve seen the deal with Chase Elliott. What’s your thoughts on activities outside the racecar?
Hocevar: I’m probably a little bit different than everybody, but I broke the same bone he did in the racecar last year. I did it at the day job, so you can break anything anywhere.
You can do a lot worse and a lot less doing other things. If he doesn’t have his incident, we’re not sitting here talking about it. My break probably could have been talked about.
I’ve always kind of wondered if it would have been talked about as a safety issue, but I came back the next week and everybody didn’t talk about it, whereas somebody gets hurt and they’re out, then it’s a safety issue. Everybody breaks stuff differently. You could literally do it anywhere. I could trip outside tomorrow and break my ankle.
Glover: Looking at this season, you said you’d like to win a championship. Where do you think your team is in alliance with that goal?
Hocevar: I feel really good about it. Our goal is five wins because that’s what it is going to take to win the championship. You’ve got to win two in the regular season to win the regular-season championship, and then you’ve got to win one in each round, which is the first, second and championship round. So that’s five wins total. Whether it’s doable or not, that’s what it takes to be the real champion, the guy who was dominant and didn’t get lucky at Phoenix [Raceway].[…] I think we’re pretty close, honestly. We’ve got a lot of resources that we didn’t have last year. We have all the boxes checked, so I feel really good that we have the pieces of the puzzle […]. It was a two- to three-year process that Al Niece put together for this deal. It has a great sponsor, has a great crew chief, a great pit crew and great trucks. I think it’s legitimately realistic where last year we had to try a lot harder.
Glover: You’ve shown an ability to compete at a variety of tracks. Which type do you feel like you could go out and win at?
Hocevar: Darlington [Raceway]. I ran second and third there the last two years, and at Charlotte [Motor Speedway], I ran second and pulled away by 10 seconds. Green-white-checkered and we don’t win the race.
I feel really, really good about those two. Pocono [Raceway], we ran fifth there and Ross [Chastain] won there in 2019, so there’s a handful of really, really good racetracks. Bristol Dirt […] led 55 [laps] and ran second there and made some really good gets for Knoxville [Raceway] that we feel really good about taking [to Bristol].
Glover: How fun has it been to be with Niece these couple of seasons, and what are the big things that you look at from when you first started to now with the big jumps you have made over that time?
Hocevar: It’s been huge. I’ve grown a great relationship with Al Niece. I have multiple dads at this point, but he’s another one in that family. Him and [Luanna Niece] are just great people and great people to race for. With Phil [Surgen, crew chief] and everybody, it’s just been nice to have a race team be in the direction we want to go and we do it.
It’s nice to know your own voice and feedback are heard, respected and listened to. We’re all trying to go to the same goal and do the same thing. Just nice to be listened to when I want a direction or need a direction, and I have full trust in them that we’re going to make the right decisions.
About the author
Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for the majority of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over "The Underdog House" column in 2021. In addition to being a college junior, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, racing go-karts, and helping at his high school alma mater.
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