Carson Hocevar a rueful runner-up again after near miss at Darlington

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — Not only was a trophy in the balance in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, but for Carson Hocevar, so was permanent ink. Not a Sharpie or a Marks-A-Lot, but a real-deal tattoo.

Hocevar left his mark — maybe not permanently — on Darlington Raceway again in the Dead On Tools 200, finishing with a hard-fought runner-up effort in overtime behind eventual winner John Hunter Nemechek. The 19-year-old Michigan native said that had he won, extreme sports star Travis Pastrana — who Hocevar’s throwback No. 42 Chevy honored — would get a tattoo. If Hocevar crashed, he said the ink was his. Instead, he mustered a second-place result — the third time he’s achieved that career-best mark without winning, and the second time in a row.

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“I had him, man. I had him, or at least I had something,” he told his Niece Motorsports team on the radio on the cool-down lap. “Damn it. I don’t like this second thing, but it’s a lot better than anything else besides winning. Thank y’all.”

Hocevar started sixth and remained in contention throughout, finishing third in Stage 1 and winning Stage 2. He rallied after a sluggish pit stop at the Stage 2 break left him in eighth place for the start of the final segment. Hocevar surged back up the leaderboard and was lined up on the inside of Nemechek for the overtime session, which pushed the event two laps beyond the scheduled 147-lap distance.

2022 May6 Carson Hocevar 2 Main Image
2022 May6 Carson Hocevar 2 Main Image

A bombs-away move wasn’t out of the question, but his No. 42 entry faltered, allowing Nemechek to scoot free.

“I took the front row and had a decent shot, came to the white flag and my motor died or electricals died for like split seconds and then he was gone,” Hocevar said. “I think I would have had a shot just because I was better in (turns) 1 and 2, I felt like, and I could at least maintain. I knew he was gonna run the top, so I was Carl Edwards-ing that thing in (turns) three and four.”

A re-enactment of Edwards’ 2008-edition Hail Mary dive at Kansas vs. Jimmie Johnson, however, wasn’t in the cards. “I wasn’t gonna lift till I saw God or at least I saw Him about five car-lengths back in my rearview mirror — or he would have drove in hard and we both hit the wall and we both drag race to the line. That was my plan.”

The prevailing wisdom that Darlington’s tough nature rewards veterans and chews up rookies has skipped over Hocevar so far. He was another top-five runner in his first trip to the track “Too Tough to Tame” last year, notching what was then a career-best third.

That was his first race paired with veteran crew chief Phil Gould, who remains atop the No. 42 pit box to watch his protégé’s success this season.

“I was blown away about how well he did, he took to the track and just how he studies everything, and he’s super smart,” Gould said of his first impressions. “His racing IQ is really high, I think is the best way to say it. As young as he is, I think once he does get that first win, there’ll be a lot of them coming.”