Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Is Kaden Honeycutt the Next Breakout Star?

Is Kaden Honeycutt the next breakout star if he can find a full-time ride?

James Krause: He’s got as good a chance as anyone. What’s impressed me is that Kaden Honeycutt has managed to jump in-between rides and always be able to pick up where he left off. Honeycutt has run four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races, a NASCAR Xfinity Series race, five zMax CARS Tour events and a few dirt late model shows in 2024. Honeycutt’s finding outstanding consistency with an inconsistent schedule in the Truck Series, including last season when he picked up three top 10s with three different teams. Imagine what Honeycutt can do with a full-time ride in the Trucks.

Kevin Nix: I think so, but the key to this question is the full-time ride. Honeycutt has outperformed his equipment at a pace that rivals Carson Hocevar, and his Kansas Speedway performance was just the latest example of that. Honeycutt is the first non-NASCAR Cup Series driver since Hocevar to put Niece Motorsports in contention to win, so his talent is not in question, the funding is. Money talks, but so does winning. While it is clear Honeycutt is loaded with talent, he needs to win to get the appropriate backing he needs to go full time.

Vito Pugliese: That depends on the quality of the ride and how it’s funded. Talent only goes so far, and while Honeycutt’s had some impressive limited runs, if he’s going to leapfrog promising talents like Corey Heim, Rajah Caruth or Jesse Love, he’ll need to be on equal footing to do so.

Mike Neff: Honeycutt is a good-looking young driver, but comparatively, Carson Kvapil seems to have the ability and adaptability to succeed in any series.

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NASCAR Mailbox: The Greatest NASCAR Finish of All Time?

What is your favorite throwback paint scheme?

Pugliese: It may not be the most popular or even NASCAR-centric, but the No. 15 of Kaz Grala and Rick Ware Racing, paying homage to the No. 15 Parnelli Jones 1969 Trans-Am BOSS 302 Mustang. The only downside is that it highlights that the number placement on the Cup cars makes no sense and wastes even more real estate down the entire side of the car.

Nix: Kyle Larson‘s throwback to Terry Labonte. The Kellogg’s Corn Flakes scheme that Labonte ran was a part of multiple iconic moments in the 1990s. You look at the scheme, you immediately think of the Ice Man. It is a clean paint scheme with simple colors that pops out at the viewer, and Larson’s No. 5 does that. It is as good of a throwback scheme as I’ve ever seen, and it is a huge nostalgia trip for fans who fondly remember that era of racing.

Neff: Harrison Burton‘s tribute to Glen Wood is truly old school. The Wood Brothers Racing scheme is almost always a throwback, but this one is clean.

Austin Bass: As someone raised in the 1990s, I gravitate to that era of iconic paint jobs on throwback weekend. The three schemes that tickle my nostalgic fancy the most this year are Larson throwing it back to Labonte, Parker Retzlaff honoring the Skoal Bandit Harry Gant, and Tyler Ankrum imitating the fictional Russ Wheeler in the legendary racing film Days of Thunder. Short of using the original numbers and sponsors, they are as perfect as it gets. Forced to pick a favorite, Mr. September’s iconic car and the folks at Jordan Anderson Racing get the nod. There is something about the unique No. 33 font that yearns for yesteryear. It has a low-budget homespun vibe but still has a sleek and fast attitude, just like Retzlaff and the No. 31 machine. That Handsome Harry car epitomized the grit and toughness of the racers from that time period, and JAR has done a stellar job shining a light on that legendary team.

Krause: This is a tough one. I like that as the throwback scheme week has gone on, we dive deeper into racing history. You get the usual suspects like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, etc. I like that some teams are going back to the likes of Dave Marcis, Robert Pressley and even going beyond NASCAR to further educate fans. My favorite is Stewart Friesen’s throwback to Johnson’s 2010 patriotic scheme, an often forgotten set of throwback schemes.

Martin Truex Jr. said, “I want to win soon. It’s getting old.” When will he win next?

Nix: The safe pick is always Sonoma Raceway. Martin Truex Jr. has taken the Cup field behind the woodshed in recent years at the track, and there is little reason to bet against him. Sonoma almost always has low attrition, so Truex likely won’t get that dreaded late caution while leading. He has had a near-comical amount of bad luck that has kept him out of victory lane this season thus far, but he and the No. 19 team are just too talented to stay out of victory lane beyond the race in Wine Country next month.

Krause: Any time now. Truex is coming up on a stretch of tracks he’s done very well at in the past, with multiple wins at Darlington Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Sonoma. If he doesn’t win any of those races, he’s going to wind up being a favorite for the Cup Series’ first visit to Iowa Speedway. He’s got four top 10s on short tracks this season and dominated at Richmond Raceway, which is about as close to a comparable track the series has to Iowa.

Bass: The savvy veteran has been knocking on the door to victory lane for a while, so it’s bound to open for him sooner rather than later, and that’ll happen this month. Tracks with older surfaces that are toughest on tires are where Truex shines the most. If he doesn’t tame Darlington this weekend, he’ll get it done at the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.

Neff: Truex has shown enough speed to win most weekends. If he doesn’t win one beforehand, he’ll grab the trophy when we return to Richmond Raceway.

Pugliese: It’s hard to bet against the Toyotas at intermediates, and there’s a pretty long one coming up here in a few weeks. I’ll pick Truex to win the Coca-Cola 600. He’s won there three times and finished third last year; just don’t ask me to commit to a margin of victory.

See also
The Perfect Race

Halfway through the Truck regular season, who has been the biggest standout?

Bass: Expectations were set high before the 2024 season began for drivers like Heim and Christian Eckes, winners of multiple races last year and contenders on a weekly basis. They’ve come out of the gate strong this season as anticipated, winning half of the races run so far with two victories apiece while occupying the top two positions in points. Just behind them, though, is Nick Sanchez, who is standing out compared to how he performed last year. The Rev Racing driver is in his second full-time season and has already doubled the number of top fives he earned in his rookie campaign with four in eight events. Sanchez won the biggest race of the year at Daytona International Speedway, his first career checkered flag, and has an average finish better than ninth, more than four positions better than his average finishing position in 2023. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll be a threat for the championship this fall.

Krause: Caruth made history with his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but since then hasn’t been huge on people’s radars with Heim and Eckes dominating the series. What they might have missed is that Caruth — who this time last year was putting up solid performances but squandering great results — has a 15-race streak of finishing inside the top 15. If the Spire trucks can find the speed they had in February and March, Caruth is bound to add a win or two before his breakout season ends.

Pugliese: Without question, Heim. Two wins, a top 10 in every race this season and parlaying that into subbing for Erik Jones the last two weeks, doing a pretty fair job along the way. Eckes has been a force as well, basically mimicking Heim’s performance, but Heim is having himself a hell of a first half of a season thus far.

Neff: While Heim is the points leader right now, Caruth has really been a standout. A driver who has been average at best for most of his career, he is really hitting his stride this year and turning heads. A pleasant surprise for sure.

Nix: Eckes. His consistency is something to marvel at. Even if he doesn’t win, he has been in contention for an excellent finish every race this season except Atlanta Motor Speedway, and that was only because he lost his brakes. His average finish of 8.1 is second to none in the series except Heim. Eckes has always been a solid driver, but he is one of the favorites to win the championship in 2024, and he’s opened up a pathway to advance to at least the Xfinity Series. He is well on his way to being too good to pass up for the higher divisions.

About the author

Austin Bass joined Frontstretch in 2024 as a contributor to combine his passion for racing and writing. Born in Wilson, NC, he developed a passion for racing at an early age while attending local short tracks on Saturday nights with his dad and watching the stars of the sport from their living room on Sunday afternoons.

Bass is a graduate of UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Communication Studies where he developed a deep understanding, appreciation, and love for the Oxford comma. He is an industrial degreaser salesman for Cox Industries whenever he is not writing or talking about racing.

James Krause joined Frontstretch in March 2024 as a contributor. Krause was born and raised in Illinois and graduated from Northern Illinois University. He currently works in La Crosse, Wisconsin as a local sports reporter, including short track racing. Krause is a fan of football, auto racing, music, anime and video games.

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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