By Dustin Albino

The bulk of Carson Hocevar‘s attention is focused on capturing the 2023 Craftsman Truck Series championship for Niece Motorsports. The bigger picture, though, is auditioning for a potential full-time Cup Series ride as soon as the 2024 season.

In four Cup starts thus far, Hocevar is proving why he is worthy of such an opportunity. He filled in for Corey LaJoie with Spire Motorsports at World Wide Technology Raceway — LaJoie ran for Hendrick Motorsports, subbing for a suspended Chase Elliott — and cracked the top 20 before experiencing a brake rotor explode entering Turn 1. His last-place finish wasn‘t a true indication of how well he performed. 

Hocevar piloted the No. 42 Chevrolet for Legacy Motor Club during the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway and he‘s continuing to drive the car. Once again, he‘s been impressive, with top 20 finishes in all three races. 

“This car, for whatever reason, suits me a lot,” Hocevar said, following an 11th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I don‘t know if God created this car for me or something, but that‘s where that delusion comes from. A lot of fun.”

Delusion is the word Hocevar used to sum up comments he made on the radio, following his fifth-place finish in Stage 2 of last week‘s race at Bristol. He commented to the No. 42 team: “Get me out front and I will set sail.”

Yet it wasn‘t make-believe that Hocevar wheeled the No. 42 car inside the top five on sheer speed. He delivered the team its best finish of the season, as Noah Gragson‘s 12th-place effort at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March was the team‘s previous best. 

Hocevar, who has done simulator work in the past, mentioned the team trusts his feedback. They went to Bristol with the setup that he directly asked for following a sim session. He also believes that his recent truck experience has prepared him for his current opportunity. 

“These guys work really well and they believe me,” he said. “These are the springs that I asked for and they put them on. It‘s different from [Erik Jones‘ car]. Just being confident in the car. The Xfinity car is a big question mark for me; I‘m not good at lifting super early. My truck spotter reminded me that this is my kind of car, just drive it as hard as you can and use it all day.”

Team leadership has taken notice of Hocevar‘s performance. 

“I‘m so happy it‘s going well with Carson,” co-owner Jimmie Johnson said in a statement. “I‘m really impressed with how he drives the car to the limit and stays within his own means. That‘s a skill usually developed over time and often through making mistakes. As we all know, he‘s a young guy, just starting off on his Cup journey.” 

Despite finishing 17th and 20th, respectively at Darlington and Kansas, Hocevar was disappointed, believing he should have been better in the final rundown. He also believes the tracks that filled the opening round of the playoffs suit his driving style. 

“I‘ve always thought I could run like that,” Hocevar stated. “I was frustrated after Darlington and Kansas because I thought this is how I should perform. It‘s super hard, but if you want to be here, you better perform. 

“I had to get almost slapped across the face to be happy about 17th because I was so hard on myself. I think that‘s the right mindset here. I can be frustrated in the moment and want more, but then Monday can be super happy about it and then try to figure out how to be better.”

Earlier this week, Legacy M.C. announced that Hocevar will also race at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend and at Talladega Superspeedway next weekend. In three starts with the No. 42 team, he has as many top-10 finishes as Gragson, Mike Rockenfeller and Josh Berry did combined in the prior 26 races. 

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