Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Is Carson Hocevar Cup Ready?

Carson Hocevar impressed once again this past weekend, making his second career NASCAR Cup Series start with a different team than he competed with earlier this year at World Wide Technology Raceway.

The No. 42 Legacy Motor Club team has been rotating in different drivers week-to-week, and for the Southern 500, Hocevar completed all of the laps and posted a 17th-place finish.

While not exactly top-five material, the No. 42 team has struggled mightily since its inception but showed some decent speed and avoided putting himself in any bad situations – something he had struggled with over the last couple of seasons in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

See also
John Hunter Nemechek Joining Legacy Motor Club in 2024

Is Hocevar proving he’s capable of being a Cup Series regular with a team that can grow with him, or does the Michigan-native need a season or two in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to build upon? This week, Chase Folsom and Joy Tomlinson weigh the options in 2-Headed Monster.

Portage Prospect is Ready for Prime Time

If Hocevar has an opportunity to go Cup racing, then why shouldn’t he go straight to the top level? These opportunities don’t come often, as most Cup drivers have multi-year contracts, at least at teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Look at how it’s worked for Corey LaJoie since he joined Spire Motorsports in 2021. His average finish was around 25th in 2021 and 24th in 2022. This year, he finishes on average about 21st — three spots better than last season. He may only have two top 10s, but he has 14 finishes of 20th or better. He’s returning to Spire next year and hopes to build on his growth.

Hocevar, meanwhile, has also grown in his time in the Truck Series. In his first full-time season with Niece Motorsports, he claimed three top fives and eight top 10s at the young age of 18. The following year, Hocevar earned four more top fives and top 10s, with three second-place finishes.

This season, the No. 42 driver broke through for his first victory at Texas Motor Speedway and added two more at Nashville Superspeedway and Richmond Raceway. Though Hocevar only led one lap in his first win, he proved it was no fluke, leading 40 laps at Nashville and 64 at Richmond.

The Michigan native also matured as a racer a few weeks after his first win. At Martinsville Speedway, Hocevar attempted to hook Taylor Gray in the right-rear, spinning his own truck in the process. He was held for two laps for his actions, and since that incident, he seems to have kept his emotions in check while on the track.

Two races after that big penalty at Martinsville, he scored a fifth at Darlington Raceway, starting a five-race top-five streak that ended with a win at Nashville. He also led 16 laps at North Wilkesboro Speedway and 43 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Additionally, Hocevar has earned top fives in each of the last three races, leading 40 laps at Milwaukee Mile.

Hocevar’s strength and maturity has helped him land some opportunities in both the Xfinity and Cup series. He earned top 10s for Spire at Charlotte and Nashville in his second and third Xfinity starts, leading three laps in the former.

In his Cup debut, he was outrunning LaJoie, who was driving Hendrick Motorsport’s No. 9 car, until his brake rotor blew and caused him to slam into the wall at World Wide Technology Raceway while he was in the top 20. He wound up finishing last in the No. 7 car.

However, Hocevar built on that in his second Cup event, this time for Legacy Motor Club. Last week at Darlington, he started 15th and finished 17th. In comparison, his teammate (and last year’s winner) Erik Jones placed 10th.

Besides, other drivers have moved up straight from the Truck Series and have earned some longevity in Cup. Todd Gilliland has driven for Front Row Motorsports the last two seasons and was recently rewarded with a contract extension to stay with the team another year.

And while this isn’t a direct comparison, William Byron only drove in Trucks and Xfinity for one full season in each series before he jumped up to Cup.

Hocevar is more than ready for the next level and should take advantage of any opportunity he can get, especially if it’s a team like Spire. –Joy Tomlinson

A Season of Xfinity Seasoning Crucial for Young Drivers

If you had told me one year ago today that Hocevar would be one of the hottest prospects in NASCAR, I probably would have questioned you. Hocevar will be the first to tell you that he’s made his fair share of mistakes and dumb decisions, between intentionally spinning himself and other drivers or just simply over driving and making a mistake that would cost him a race. 

This year, however, Hocevar has turned things around. He finally picked up his first Truck Series win at Texas, albeit a controversial one, but has since backed it up with a dominating win at Nashville and a come from behind win at Richmond.

Not to mention, Hocevar has been impressive in select Xfinity Series and Cup Series starts, posting two top 10s in five starts in the Xfinity Series, while bringing home an impressive 17th-place result in the Southern 500, in just his second Cup Series start. 

While Hocevar has quickly become a top prospect in NASCAR, what is next for the young up-and-coming driver? In my opinion, moving to the Xfinity Series would be more beneficial to Hocevar than jumping straight to Cup. 

First, the goal of any driver in the Cup Series is to win, and not just win races, ultimately win a championship. Some drivers jump at the opportunity to be in Cup, with whatever opportunity is available, good or bad. However, that might be the only option for some drivers, with where they are in their career and what sponsors want them to do with the money.

Hocevar is not in that position. At 20, Hocevar is not on his last leg or looking for one last chance to find a ride, and one could argue he has all the time in the world. Yes, he’s shown tons of talent, but we aren’t that far removed from the wild reckless version of Hocevar that couldn’t stay out of trouble. 

That being said, the rides available in the Cup series are limited at this time, especially with Hocevar being linked to the Chevy camp. With Legacy Motor Club, who Hocevar drove for at Darlington, making the move to Toyota in 2024, that leaves Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Trackhouse Racing and Spire in the Chevy camp, and the only one that truly has an opening is Spire Motorsports, who Hocevar made his series debut with at Gateway.

Hocevar has been linked to the Spire No. 77, but is that truly the place a driver of Hocevar’s caliber would like to go? There’s a potential we end up looking at another Noah Gragson situation (on the racetrack, not social media), where a hot shoe driver jumps at any opportunity to get in a Cup car, gets stuck in a mediocre car and struggles, missing out on the opportunity to show their true talent.

See also
Carson Kvapil Joins Spire for Truck Series Debut at Bristol

So, on the flip side, where would Hocevar go if he were to make the move to the Xfinity Series? Look no further than JR Motorsports, the premier Chevy team of the series that has Hendrick Motorsports backing. With Josh Berry leaving to replace Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2024, Hocevar has been rumored to be the top candidate to take over the No. 8 for JR Motorsports.

JR Motorsports has been the flagship Chevy team in the Xfinity Series for basically a decade, so there is no better place for Hocevar to go and work on his racecraft, show his talent, and even add to his stock.

Furthermore, the No. 77 that Hocevar has made starts in with Spire Motorsports in the Xfinity Series is a JR Motorsports prepared car, so he’s already familiar with the team. 

I will always believe that it is more beneficial for a driver to take the best ride available, rather than the ride at the highest level, even if that means taking time in a lower series. It’s easier to prove your worth in top equipment rather than subpar equipment. So, for that reason, Hocevar should jump to Xfinity next season, rather than Cup. –Chase Folsom

About the author

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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Echo

Hopevar finished 17th due to attrition, look who all messed up and finished behind him. You really mentioned his name with William Byron. He might be better than ty Dillon, not sure on that one.

Jill Peck

If he has the funding, he would be better off going to a competitive Xfinity team. He would get more attention and better prospects for future Cup rides than riding mid-pack in Cup now.

Dawg

In a perfect world, he could undoubtedly benefit from another season in Xfinity.
But let’s look at the early days of NASCAR, there wasn’t any ladder series.
Home track hot shots just showed up, paid their entry fee & got with it.
Those that stuck around, learned by OJT, & the school of hard knocks, often literally.

I can’t imagen having a better mentor than JJ. he’ll be fun to watch, & with the 42, the bar’s not set too high.

sdelfin

Hocevar has shown he’s got talent, and maybe the Cup series is in his future, but having watched him the last couple of seasons, I think a longer path to Cup is better for him so that he can mature more. He’s coming along in that way, but he still has things to clean up and plenty to learn. He can learn a lot and develop his skills in the Xfinity Series, which I think would be the right move for him, especially with it looking like quite a few competitive cars being open for 2024.

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