Carson Hocevar loses lead in closing laps, falls second on Bristol's dirt: 'I could have cried'

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Two miles and change separated Carson Hocevar from his first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory.

“I could have cried,” Hocevar said. “I knew I was gonna cry whether I won or lost. It’s a pansy thing to do, but this sport is hard and you don’t have those close moments too often.”

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The No. 42 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet led all but four laps in the final stage of the Pinty‘s Truck Race on Dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway. Those four, unfortunately for Hocevar, were the final four. His 55 laps out front — a career best by 38 at any track — weren’t enough. He finished second.

Image From Ios (6)
Image From Ios (6)

After a late-race caution, the field saw the green flag return on Lap 145 of 150. Hocevar held his P1 position through the first live lap back. But then Rhodes, who restarted right behind Hocevar in third, darted below Hocevar as he drove high during the next lap to steal the lead on the inside.

“When he threw the slide job, I tried to like slide with him and get him off, and he hit my left-front and walked me up the race track,” Hocevar said. “I just had nothing. I just had to rip top and hope I either crossed him over or beat him.”

Neither happened. Rhodes won by 0.824 seconds.

Though he wishes for that deciding moment back, Hocevar admitted the only thing he could have done differently was crash Rhodes.

“I thought something was gonna happen,” said Rhodes, the reigning Truck Series champion. “I‘d rather finish second than get wrecked. I’m all for contact, whatever you got to do to try to win the race, but wrecking somebody I don’t think is necessarily cool to win. But it’s racing. It‘s truck racing, too. Everybody here drives pretty crazy, and me, too. I was probably the craziest tonight, so I can‘t complain about anybody.”

VIDEO: Hocevar reacts on pit road to Bristol dirt finish

Hocevar is in just his second full-time Truck Series season. This was his first top-five and third top-10 finish in 2022.

The 19-year-old has four top fives and 11 top 10s in 37 career starts now. His previous best result was also runner-up — 2021 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, falling short to John Hunter Nemechek, who placed third Saturday.

This is Hocevar‘s second year with Niece Motorsports, whose last win came in 2019 with current Cup Series driver Ross Chastain.

“I think it‘s more important Niece Motorsports wins,” Hocevar said. “I mean, it’s been a while, a long while. And more importantly, I’m more focused on me winning. I’ll crash every week if I can just win one week. I’m gonna do everything I can and work everything, work it out. So, you know, that risk versus reward? I‘m just here for the reward.”