October 4, 2023

Hocevar is just aiming for a clean race on his Shock Cup debut at WWTR

When he first got the call, Carson Hocevar couldn’t believe it.

One year ago, the World Wide Technology Raceway was the scene of a brutal accident for the young star of the Craftsman Truck Series. He suffered a broken right tibia in a last lap crash that hampered him for weeks.

The track will be equally memorable for Hocevar in 2023, but this time in a positive way. Hocevar makes his Cup Series debut in the Enjoy Illinois 300, driving the No. 7 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.

Spire’s regular lead driver, Corey LaJoie, drives Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevrolet in place of Chase Elliott, who was suspended for a week after an intentional crash with Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

The organization was happy to let LaJoie grab the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it left the No. 7 team with an opening. Spire opted to fill it with Hocevar, who has two top 10s this year in as many starts for the company’s Xfinity Series program.

Hocevar was called by Spire co-owner Jeff Dickerson on Tuesday to discuss the move during a race meeting with Niece Motorsports. It went to his voicemail as he focused on his full-time team, but Hocevar called Dickerson back afterwards and was told of the plans. An announcement should come at 5 p.m. ET.

His reaction?

“Honestly, I just answered ‘no’,” he said. “‘No. Really? Are you serious?’

“In my mind, I just tried not to sell it too much and think it was a foregone conclusion, (because) they weren’t sure where they stood.”

Hocevar spent the rest of the day tensely waiting for the announcement, refreshing his phone “700 times” until 5 p.m., wanting his name to be announced. When it finally came, his dream came true.

The days after that have been a bit of a blur. Spire tried fitting one of LaJoie’s Schluter Systems riding suits for Hocevar, but they didn’t fit the tall Michigander. He will wear his Xfinity Series driver suit and use his Xfinity seat and insert for the race. Spire even had to tilt the No. 7 Chevrolet’s seat to allow Hocevar more visibility in the cockpit.

The 20-year-old called fellow truck competitor Zane Smith, who debuted at the same track last year, to get advice on the possibility. He also called his father to tell him the news, hoping he would be able to attend the race.


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“We have two puppies at home and he’s trying to figure out how to (come),” Hocevar said. “They have a small coin and jewelry shop and only four or five employees, so they are trying to figure out how to close the shop and have someone look at the puppies so he can come. He doesn’t come often, and I really want him to go.”

Over the past few days, Hocevar’s has been participating in pitstop practice at Hendrick Motorsports, spending hours in the simulator trying to learn the art of sequential shifting, while also going through standard prep for Saturday’s Truck race.

It’s not easy to learn how to compete against regulars of the Cup. Hocevar joked that he had “about three days” to figure out what was “about two years worth catching up on”.

But the Chevrolet prospect has one thing that helps with his learning curve: he’s spent the past year and a half as a simulator driver for Trackhouse Racing.

“I do a lot of work when Ross (Chastain) and Daniel (Suarez) can’t get in,” he said. “So I learned a lot about this car. I’ve been in the sim and talked about how the car has progressed and the difference from start to finish. I really wanted to drive a car sometime, whether it was a wheel force test or something (other), just (because) I wanted to be able to give them (good feedback).

“I feel like I take my role as a sim driver seriously and want to be the best I can be. The first thing they texted me (after the announcement)…they said, ‘Man, you finally got your wish.’

“I already have an idea of ​​how I would like the car to drive, and I think that helps me a lot,” Hocevar later added. “I feel like it helped me a lot to prepare. Credit to Josh Wise for putting me in that role and letting me do sim for Trackhouse. A huge thank you to Schluter Systems and also to Celsius for letting me drive their race car. But I feel like I’m prepared as best I can and I’m not really going into this blindly.

Hocevar proved that initial confidence valid on Saturday, qualifying ahead of LaJoie and Spire teammate Ty Dillon in 26th, but he keeps his goals simplistic and achievable for the race.

Seeing the black and white checkered flag with a clean car is all he wants from his cup debut.

“I am not running for points and I have not planned another start,” he said. “I want to see a checkered flag and I hope to be in the first lap. I want all four fenders on the race car. No tire tracks. No rub marks.

“I just want to be able to finish the race and enjoy every second of it. How we shuffle, you know, if it’s a top 15 day, if it’s a top 20 day, if it’s top 25 or if I’m running 31st because Sunday is tough… No matter what the case is, I want to run around those guys.

“When they come up to me and[say]’Man I enjoyed racing you and appreciate the help or appreciate you letting me go or giving you space…’ I think that’s (further) than when I try really hard to get them and make a mistake.

Story originally appeared on Racer

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