The Truck Series raced on rain tires, Corey Heim wins a Martinsville clock, struggles with rain, and Carson Hocevar intentionally wrecks a competitor.
Here are four takeaways from the Long John Silvers 200 from Martinsville.
1: Corey Heim gets his first win of 2023
The 2022 Truck Series Rookie of the Year and TRICON Garage scored their first win of 2023. Corey Heim lead 82 of 124 laps ran at the track, and won both stages. Heim made several passes during the stint on the wet-weather tires, moving from fourth position to second behind Kyle Busch. When the caution laps ended after the competition caution to switch to slicks, Heim made his pass on Busch, and he was long gone. Winning both stages and the race, Heim earned seven playoff points. This moved him from seventh in the points standings, to fourth, behind Ben Rhodes.
Got my clock!! Thank you @tricongarage @toyotaracing @safelite for believing in me and putting me in a position to succeed! Hard work pays off 👊 #TeamToyota pic.twitter.com/ZZYJ66ybj5
— Corey Heim (@CoreyHeim_) April 15, 2023
Corey Heim had his breakout season in 2022, winning Rookie of the Year honors. He scored two wins, Atlanta and Gateway, and ten top-ten finishes. All this success in a part-time season, just sixteen of the twenty-three races. Heim also won ROTY in the Cars Tour in 2018. In 2021, he was runner-up in the ARCA Menards Series championship. This young man has had lots of success, and I see him having a great season in 2023.
2: Wet Weather tires make their debut
NASCAR developed a tire that would allow a race plagued by rain to get underway sooner. Only available at flat short tracks similar to Martinsville, they saw their debut last Friday night. NASCAR officials dried the track and mandated wet weather tires for the teams. The tires ran for twenty-seven laps until a competition caution was brought out. Teams switched the grooved tires for the normal Goodyear Eagle slick tires which ran until the race was called short for rain, on lap 124.
Here's what 27 laps on a mostly-dry oval does to rain tires.#NASCAR pic.twitter.com/sQMeqGjBCL
— Bill McAnally Racing (@BMR_NASCAR) April 15, 2023
Their debut was not without controversy, as many things in the sport. Many criticized the call to run the tires after NASCAR’s track drying got most of the speedway dried. The tweet from Bill McAnally Racing showed what the tires, with rubber specially designed to be cooled by water on the track, look like following twenty-seven laps. Blistered rubber from running on what was a dry track. NASCAR then ran sixteen laps under caution to dry more of the track, after the call to remove the specialized tires was given.
3: Carson Hocevar parked for 2 laps, further penalties may be incoming
Carson Hocevar has had a history of intentional wrecks and spins. Hocevar spun the #91 on the front stretch at Indy Raceway Park last year. He had two intentional spins last year, one at Talladega and another at Las Vegas. He has been a repeat offender of this and finally, NASCAR did something about it. At Martinsville, he was parked for 2 laps after intentionally right-hooking the #17 of Taylor Gray, some giving him benefit of the doubt due to a flat left rear.
We have seen a harsher NASCAR this season. Denny Hamlin was penalized for his actions at Phoenix after he discussed them after the race. Bubba Wallace was suspended for one race for intentionally wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in the fall of last year. I think we need to see a suspension for Hocevar, he has a history of offenses and it needs to be stopped right now. Park Hocevar for the next race at Kansas, problem solved.
4: Half a race ran under caution:
With 63 caution laps out of 124 total ran, we have a new winner for the percent ran under caution, 50.8%. 36 of those caution laps were during rain, sixteen after the comp. caution and twenty after stage one. The teams had rain tires and all the necessary equipment to race in light rain conditions, but we did not see a lap turned under green. A huge mistake was made by the NASCAR officials, not racing Saturday morning. Hailie Deegan made a similar comment at the end of her race day vlog. She said, “I wish NASCAR would have just went, ‘the smart thing to do, lets just race tomorrow’, but no”.
If the Truck Series is to have any credibility in building a driver’s career in the top ranks of NASCAR, we need to get more than 10 laps of green flag racing. Intentional wrecks, lack of race craft, and many things can be named the culprit, but it needs to stop. Sponsors need TV time and when the majority of the race is run under caution, TV is on commercial. Let’s hope things improve in the coming races.