By: Ashley McCubbin
After a solid second full-time campaign in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Carson Hocevar will return once again as he hopes to capture his first career series victory. The Niece Motorsports driver shared his thoughts with NEWS FROM THE PITS.
What are your thoughts going into the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season?
I feel good. They made a lot of gains this off-season. KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) switching to Chevrolet was a big help just on knowledge and resources and real big catch-up on what we may be behind as a manufacture and race team. So that’s been a huge help and huge for us on the little details. You almost got a get up to speed really quick because you just know exactly what areas rather than just guessing and learning over time. You get an automatic reset and that’s huge for us and I suspect a lot of better runs than last year and a lot of up front and a handful trophies to put on the shelf.
We’ve seen you get better each season, so what are the goals for 2023?
The only goal is to be final four (championship) competitor and regular season champion and be in the final four at Phoenix (Raceway). That’s our only goal and expectation from WEX Racing to Niece Motorsports to the whole 4-2 group.
What track are you most looking forward to getting to on the schedule?
Probably Charlotte (Motor Speedway), honestly. We dominated that race up till an eight second lead and I threw that one away from myself so I just want to get back to that race track with even better truck and be able to put that one finally behind me and get the trophy that’s sitting next to me that Ross (Chastain) won and have another one to sit next to it.
As I mentioned, you’ve been getting stronger each year – eight top-10’s in 2021 to 12 last season. What do you feel that you need to do to be even stronger as a driver moving forward?
I don’t know a 100 per cent, I just think it’s the whole picture of it. A lot of more knowledge in myself and a lot more confidence in knowing I can run up front everywhere we go. But I think the huge part is just the whole package in knowing exactly where our trucks need to be and the stuff we’re off, we know to not get complacent now as a company and as a driver, we feed off each other. They can’t expect to build winning race trucks if I’m not a winning driver – but I can’t be a winning driver if there’s not winning race trucks. They go hand-in-hand and I’m definitely going to be on top of every detail that I can because I know our trucks are that much better and now it’s officially on me to capitalize on that.
You already mentioned it. KBM is switching to Chevrolet. How closely do the different truck teams work together across the same manufacture umbrella between yourself at Niece (Motorsports), KBM, and GMS (Racing)?
They work a little bit. Nothing like set-up or anything like that or little details – just more aero wise. They more so focus on the aero platform. When a truck goes in the wind tunnel, every Chevrolet team is going to know. There’s nothing that you can hide, where everything else is within the four walls of the race team. Where we’ve been off is when we get into the wind tunnel booth, and having KBM really pick us up or really show where they’ve been strong and we’ve struggled, just knowing that has been huge.
How did you get your start in racing?
(I) saw it on TV, honestly, and loved it, had fun with it. (I) went to a go-kart track and found quarter midgets by accident really and tried it a few times and there’s no way that I wanted to get out of it. I tried every other sport, just was not really good at any of them, just really uncoordinated – just not hand-eye coordinated, struggled at all of them and racing was already my biggest passion. That was the only thing that I was halfway good at so that’s the direction that I kept going and luckily I had really supportive parents and a lot of people around me and that’s helped me through the years.
We’ve watched you come up through the ranks, including the time you spent in late models. What’s the biggest thing you learned in late models that’s been a benefit to you now at the truck series level?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s a single thing. I just think you learn over time. You’re so new, especially in late models now that most people – it’s not normal now to start in a four-cylinder or street stock. Everybody starts at late model, and that’s kind of just being birth into stock cars and learning big cars. So you’re just learning everything so new that you’re learning everything there, and learning the little details – the basics how to shift on restarts, how to restart, how to pass a car, how to set them up, how to build runs, what loose is and how you’re getting loose – just the no-brainer basics that a professional driver should know so when you get to that level you know how springs and shocks work, how changes.
For me, late models was just learning how set-ups work, honestly, how to build the racecar. I’m not very hands-on, I’m not very good at it. They don’t like me touching it most of the time, but I like to know a lot of ins-and-outs of set-ups. I’ve learned over time how the shocks and springs work, and how different set-ups react. I feel I’m in a decent spot that I know exactly what they change without telling me. I think that’s been a huge affect on when I come to these trucks, as it just helps the learning process go quicker.
Five years from now, where do you see yourself in the sport?
Hopefully still here, hopefully. Hopefully I have a handful of wins and racing on Sundays, but ultimately, I think as long as I’m in any of the three series (Truck, NASCAR Xfinity Series or NASCAR Cup Series), that’s an accomplishment.
So do you have any more crazy hats coming this year?
I don’t know. I’m starting to realize how expensive that is getting. Maybe. I haven’t put a lot of thought into it, to be honest. You can always have too much of a good thing and draw it out, but we’ll wait and see. I know WEX has some ideas and they’re full-time sponsor, full-time partner so whatever they say goes and they have a lot of creative ideas that I might not be able to bring myself even so we’ll just wait and see.
What would be one piece of advice to that kid out there racing late models that wants to run the truck series one day?
Just have fun. Not be too focused – I know I was – just too focused on getting to the truck series and the next step that you lose track of enjoying the no pressure of it and being able to learn and make mistakes without a big audience, without big companies and partners, and learning the politics of racing. You really just to get to go race and have fun and learn and have no stress and just have fun and people around you take note of that.