By: Ashley McCubbin
Even though Carson Hocevar missed out in being part of the Championship 4 this weekend, it’s been a successful rookie campaign with three top-five’s and seven top-10 finishes. The Niece Motorsports driver caught up with NEWS FROM THE PITS to discuss his season to date.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: What are your thoughts going into Phoenix this weekend?
CARSON HOCEVAR: It’s bittersweet. We still have a shot for Rookie of the Year and a shot to win a race, but we don’t have a shot to win a championship, which was ultimately the top end goal. Just kind of look back on things that could’ve played out differently in the last round to still be fighting, but there’s still a lot to gain out in phoenix.
ASHLEY: What’s the toughest challenge when it comes to Phoenix?
CARSON: I mean, dirty air is the biggest thing. It’ a short track that race s like a mile and a half. It has a lot of dirty air and a lot of other characteristics which makes passing very difficult. So qualifying up front, now what we have qualifying back this week, will be very important and track position.
Last year, the field got jumbled up with a late-race restart because everybody has nothing to lose, everything to gain, versus a handful of guys trying to get a handful of points and run for a championship, so there’s a lot of different agendas at play at once.
ASHLEY: What are your thoughts on how the season has played out?
CARSON: It sucked, it’s awful. We’re not in the final four so it’s terrible. No, it’s been really good. I don’t think we’ve ran good enough or had consistent enough runs to be able to say we’re a champion. There’s obviously better guys out there. So it’s hard to hang your hat on that because we haven’t been the best truck all year, but we’ve been constantly getting better.
We’ve thrown away really good runs to make our average finish a lot better and consistently been finishing higher, but I think our average speed getting higher, average trajectory and not tearing trucks up has been really good. I think that’s something to be really proud of, and I think we’re racing still for Rookie of the Year. That’s what Al Niece wanted at the start of the year, and that’s our main trajectory to win the race and Rookie of the Year.
ASHLEY: What do you feel that you can work to be even better in the future?
CARSON: I mean, just trying minimizing those rookie mistakes. I feel like I blew away the first half of the year just not knowing stuff still and still learning it all. I now feel if I was able to redo this year, there’s so many things that I would’ve done differently in clutch time situations that’d ultimately have us on a good spot to capitalize on a win or be right there or have a win slip away.
There’s so much stuff that I wish I could go back, and I am so happy that I have a shot to go back and try one more time at least and get a full year of knowing what I know now, and putting together a full season campaign with full season experience.
ASHLEY: I know you still have to cap off this season, and the focus is on this weekend at Phoenix. But what are those goals for next year now that you’ve mentioned it?
CARSON: Ultimately, our goals this year were to make the playoffs, win Rookie of the Year, and complete every lap, and we’ve gotten really close. So I think next year would be win a race straight out of the get-go, mark our way into the playoffs easily, and then ultimately Final Four would be our two goals. That would be top of the top. You don’t run two full years in Truck with a top-team and not expect to be a championship runner, especially if you want to move up and be a threat.
I think the second year you really have to step up to the plate, and I hope that Niece Motorsports and I can do that along with Phil Gould and their program. They’re really upgrading their program and really bringing a lot of funding into the program. The 42 team still needs to find a lot of funding, but Niece Motorsports as a whole is ironing out all the details and make sure every penny counts that comes into Niece Motorsports is handled correctly and not wasted.
ASHLEY: Now that you’ve been to all the tracks on the schedule, what is your favorite track?
CARSON: Honestly, that’s tough. I really like Bristol, honestly. It’s one of my favorites because it races like a short track, but has a lot of speed and you’re constantly out of control and everything happens so quickly. It’s so much fun to race there.
ASHLEY: I know your background is short tracks, having seen you in late models. Are we going to see you back behind the wheel of a late model again?
CARSON: Yeah. I just have the Snowball Derby at the end of the year in December.