NASCAR Cup Series
Carson Hocevar 1-on-1: On battling for truck title, moving to Cup Series in 2024
NASCAR Cup Series

Carson Hocevar 1-on-1: On battling for truck title, moving to Cup Series in 2024

Updated Oct. 12, 2023 9:02 a.m. ET

Carson Hocevar appeared to be a driver with some talent in the truck series but little direction at the end of 2022 and the start of 2023. He was wrecking other drivers when frustration got the best of him — the worst coming earlier this year at Martinsville — and just wasn't making the best decisions for a driver with his skills.

The 20-year-old seemed to change overnight. He got a shot in the Spire Motorsports No. 7 Cup car when Corey LaJoie filled in for Chase Elliott and drove well until a mechanical failure ended his day at WWTR Gateway. He has driven five races for Legacy Motor Club in the No. 42 car and will finish out the year in that seat while also still competing for the truck series championship. 

His summer surge landed him a Cup ride at Spire for next season as he will replace Ty Dillon in the No. 77 car. Hocevar will be part of a Spire expansion from two Cup cars and one part-time truck to three full-time Cup cars and three full-time trucks as Spire added a Cup team for Zane Smith and also bought Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Hocevar talked to FOX Sports about his new ride and the crazy season. 


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How long a wait was it for you to be able to talk about what you're doing in 2024?

Middle of the way through the year, things were changing — trying to figure it out. And I've known this obviously for a long time and I feel like almost everybody else has, but it's nice to have it announced, have it official. Spire told me that they had a lot of things planned that they had to button up and announce before me, and little did I know it was going to be these big announcements and big changes — a full whirlwind of stuff I would not have imagined when I signed my deal. And to see the growth so quickly, it's made me even more excited to be with Spire Motorsports and drive their race cars.

You've driven for them a little bit in Xfinity, once in Cup. I know that you talked to some Xfinity teams. What made this the right fit?

It just made the most sense, honestly. What we were able to do in just a few days notice at Gateway just led me to wanting more. And, thankfully, I'm getting able to run a Cup car even more this year to prepare for next year. The Spire guys really fit my style. They get along with me really well. I get along with them really well. We have a really good working relationship that just feels super natural. We just kind of plugged in at Gateway and it felt like we were doing it for years, or at least a lot of races, not three-day-notice, let alone driving a Cup car for the first time ever. 

So it just makes you super excited. They look at me like I could really elevate their program. And I'd like to think I might be able to. They're doing ... all the right things that will allow me just to be able to focus in on our program and our race cars and get them to handle well and give me a runway for my future and have a place that I can build with and grow with in the Cup Series.

You've talked about kind of your growth since Martinsville earlier this year. If I told you at Martinsville after that race, or in the days after that race, that you're going to be full-time Cup in 2024, what would you have told me?

I don't know if you told me I was going to drive a Cup car once I would have believed you, honestly. It's pretty crazy how big things have changed. And in the moment, I wished those moments didn't exist. But honestly, I think everything happens for a reason. My dad reminds me all the time — he's very, very positive — any time anything goes bad, it's just a character-building moment. And it's no further than the truth. You need the bad moments to be able to bring yourself back to reality, have some humble pie every now and again, but make yourself better at the end of it. I felt like we've done a lot of really good steps, not just me, just all the people around me and positioning myself. I'm glad Spire Motorsports and other teams [see it]. I've been slowly earning that respect and enjoying going fast on the racetrack and racing hard but not being desperate at moments. 

Carson Hocevar on why he is ready for Cup racing

Is there any part of you that feels like you're moving to Cup too quickly?

No. For how comfortable I feel in this car, I feel like I belong here. Honestly, it feels just so big that I don't feel nervous, honestly. I was more nervous driving the Xfinity car than the Cup car because I thought I had to go win right away. A Cup car, there's a bigger learning curve — a top-15 day is a really good day still in Cup where a top-5 day in Xfinity probably equates to that or isn't even as big as the top-15 day in Cup. The sky's the limit for me being able to learn and grow with this team and have an idea and really understanding these cars and being able to put that together for a whole year and see what I can do and what we can do for our program. I'm more excited for the challenge than ever, And I'm confident, not delusional. I feel really, really confident.  

You've talked about Dale Earnhardt Jr. asking you about when are you going to stop wrecking cars. I'm curious, have you talked to him since then? Have you had better conversations with him since then?  

Yeah. We've texted back and forth, I called him — they asked me at the Chevy display about who's the most famous or my favorite contact in my phone, it was Dale. So I called him and he answered within a ring. So that was super cool. And he's texting me back and forth. And he's even reminded me, he's like, "Man, I'm really jealous that you're not one of my cars. I thought we would win a lot of races." But he reassured me that I was making the right choice and that he's enjoyed calling the races, watching and enjoying watching me. To be able to have that conversation, and then that come full circle just a few months later is pretty crazy to me and something I would never take for granted. How often do you get complimented by your heroes through a text message? It's not very often at all.

Carson Hocevar on the time when he met Dale Earnhardt Jr.

How are you going to handle five, six straight weeks of probably rough performance? Because everybody has it in a Cup car at some point?

I don't know. I don't know if we'll have that yet. It depends on what rough performance is. When you're a champion, running 15th is a rough performance. For us running 15th, we kind of expect that. Hopefully, we can be bummed about 15th. But I've ran a Cup car a lot of times this year, and I have yet to have where I got out and said, "Man, that was rough." This isn't with a team [right now] that's built for me or with a group and a full-year program. These are sub-ins and race for cars that originally didn't have my name on it at the start of the year. I'm confident about it. If I'm planning on how I'm going to struggle for five or six weeks, I don't belong driving this Cup car. I plan to prepare in the weeks before that we don't struggle. And if we do struggle one week, I think it's on everybody that we don't struggle two in a row, let alone five or six.

What have you learned about Cup racing driving for Legacy?

A little bit of everything, honestly, just the unwritten rules I guess you could say. There's kind of a driver code out there — it's like playing golf. Everybody kind of plays to everybody's effort levels. Everybody tries to take care of each other a little bit out there and at the same time, everybody knows when it's OK to be super aggressive, and make really good moves and be game on and everybody knows when there's a time of, hey, we're in this spot, we're not really getting stage points, let's get to the next stage. I'm just learning that and just learning a little bit of everybody's tendencies. They're all super good. Even when you get to lap cars, they're all good race-car drivers that they can slow you down. They might not know how to make their car go fast that day, but they know how to slow you down, which is definitely tough.

You still have a Truck Series championship that you're vying for this year. Does this announcement add pressure in the sense that you probably should run pretty well on track, or does it lessen pressure, the fact like that you know your future no matter what happens over the next few weeks?

There's both. I don't look at it as pressure. I look at it like I'm doing all the right things. I don't need to change what I'm doing. I go down on Friday [in trucks] and race for a championship. And I look at that like I'm racing on Sunday. If I drive like a Cup driver, I should have a really good shot to win the championship. If I prepare like a Cup driver, we should have that. It gives me the confidence that I know I'm a Cup driver racing for a truck championship. That just gives me extra confidence. 

But at the same time, I don't know if I'm going to be vying for a Cup championship right away so I look at this as my shot. I just want to leave everything out there and know that I didn't beat myself by not putting in the extra work, not getting complacent with our sim models, getting complacent with our setups or getting complacent on pit road. I want to be able to execute at the highest level like I was racing for a Cup championship on Friday, and hopefully I have a shot [at Phoenix]. That'd be really cool to walk into the Cup garage Sunday knowing I have a championship trophy that I get to take home by the time Sunday night is over.

Carson Hocevar on battling for the truck title

Is it weird that one of the guys vying for the truck championship is Zane Smith, who will be a teammate of yours next year?

I think it's more weird right now that I'm racing for Legacy and I'm racing against Grant [Enfinger] running for [Legacy affiliate] GMS — honestly, that's a little bit weirder right now, personally. Zane is in a must-win where Grant looks a little bit better to point in. But, no, I haven't looked at it like that. I maybe play to that a little bit, and I go talk to them a little bit more than I probably would have if not having those relationships. I haven't looked at it a whole lot differently. But it is pretty cool talking to them and hearing a little bit more and having those relationships. It's super cool that me and Zane get to go run a Cup car next year let alone if he makes the Final Four, we get to race for a championship against each other and have a little bit of bragging rights by the time next year comes around.

What To Watch For

Long green-flag runs ... and a caution at the end?

That's what happened in the spring at Las Vegas. William Byron won the first two stages but Kyle Larson was set to win the race before a late caution pushed the race into overtime. One thing drivers know: tires matter. Martin Truex Jr. stayed out and couldn't hold on to the lead as Byron blistered by him for the win.

In the fall race a year ago, Joey Logano took tires late in the race while several drivers stayed out on a late caution. Logano rallied for the win.

So while it would seem gambling might be the right thing to do in Vegas, staying out doesn't seem to be the best strategy.

Expect Byron and Larson to be strong. Bubba Wallace also has had fast cars at Vegas.

Thinking Out Loud

NASCAR and Rev Racing, which gets some support from NASCAR as part of the Drive For Diversity program, had their combine for possible 2024 drivers to compete in local and regional series next year.

There were 12 drivers from across the country, and they went through a media and fitness session, a go-kart racing session and then most also got time in a late model race car.

The good thing about this program? The drivers are evaluated on their skills. They get to watch film of their racing sessions, then go over data from them and then go back out again and see if they improved. 

If they don't get picked, at least they learned something. In hopes of having a more diverse fan base, NASCAR seeks to have a diverse driver lineup. The competition for rides is tough no matter who you are, so getting that experience could be invaluable.

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They Said It

"I hear it from both sides and can see it from both sides in some way, shape or form, but I didn't dig deep into whether it was just or unjust. I just went home and heard the news like everybody else and I went on with my week." Kevin Harvick on his Talladega disqualification

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.


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