Carson Hocevar has had a breakout season in Trucks and had two Cup Series starts in 2023. Could he be the second driver since Kurt Busch to make the move from Trucks to Cup?
Carson Hocevar has made 2023 his year. He got his first win at Texas in dramatic fashion and followed it up with two more wins, two Xfinity top-five finishes, and now a top-twenty in just his second Cup Series start. Hocevar, driving for Legacy Motor Club, shocked fans when he qualified the car in fifteenth, compared to his twenty-sixth place starting spot driving for Spire Motorsports previously in the Cup Series.
— Carson Hocevar (@CarsonHocevar) September 4, 2023
Hocevar is currently running for the Truck Series championship and sits fifth in the playoff standings. In his five years in trucks, he has amassed nineteen top-five finishes, thirty top-tens, and three straight playoff appearances. Safe to say, he has shown his talents in trucks and is ready to make the next move up the NASCAR ladder.
He has made four starts in the Xfinity Series for Spire Motorsports in 2023, resulting in two top-ten finishes, one DNF, and one finish of 32nd due to an accident. While his luck has been 50/50, he has shown he can drive the Xfinity cars, but it has not come without some “humble pie” as one conversation with him went.
On the popular podcast “Door, Bumper, Clear” Hocevar tells the listeners that he was having constant conversations with team owners about his aggressive driving style. This came to a climax when he sat down for a meeting with Dale Earnhardt Jr., owner of JR Motorsports, where Spire gets their Xfinity cars. Hocevar says Earnhardt Jr. very bluntly said “Man, when are you gonna stop tearing s*** up?” and “You’re not gonna do that in one of these cars, are you?”.
With Josh Berry leaving JR Motorsports at the end of the 2023 season to go Cup Series racing with Stewart-Haas, the #8 Camaro has yet to have a driver announcement. Hocevar’s name has been thrown into that pot along with others, and the interview seems to corroborate that idea, but I think Hocevar is gonna skip out on the Xfinity Series as a whole.
Why would Carson Hocevar skip Xfinity?
The Xfinity Series has always been known as the last step before you go to the Cup Series. Before 2022, that may have been the case, but I think the progression for drivers has changed within the Next-Gen era.
Difference between Cup and Xfinity:
Before 2022, when the Next-Gen Cup car was introduced, there were many similarities between both the Cup and Xfinity cars. Drivers advancing from Trucks to Xfinity, were getting into a more powerful racecar with less downforce compared to a truck, with certain handling characteristics based on the series. Drivers advancing from Xfinity to Cup, the learning curve was smaller, but the field was more experienced. Both racecars had solid rear axles, H-pattern shifting, and similar size tires.
That type of repair would not have been possible with the Gen 6 car because the front clip was welded to the center section. pic.twitter.com/if4UnkFEdW
— Bozi Tatarevic (@BoziTatarevic) December 6, 2021
Now, we have a Cup Series car that is closer to an IMSA sports car than the Xfinity car. The new car has an independent rear suspension; meaning both rear tires can move up and down independently of each other. The transmission is different, no longer a four-speed, H-pattern shifter, it is now a five-speed sequential; shifting is as easy as pulling the shifter. What experience drivers gained from their tenure in Xfinity is no longer relevant for advancing to Cup in 2023.
A peek at what’s underneath the body panels of a Next Gen car… I should note that not all parts and pieces are on this vehicle. But a good look regardless. pic.twitter.com/867d1nDcbz
— Josh Hamilton (@joshahamilton) December 8, 2021
I look at the success of Ty Gibbs in both his part-time Cup starts in 2022 and so far in 2023. Gibbs has two top-five finishes and eight top-tens, in forty-two starts. Gibbs, who won in his first Xfinity start and was the 2022 Xfinity Series Champion, left the series where he was a favorite to win every weekend, why? Because of the extreme differences between the two cars.
It would be smart for Hocevar and one of the teams with an available Cup seat to bring him in Cup in 2024. He is a young driver and will have four, maybe more, Cup Series starts. This is a driver you can build a team around, and contend for future race wins and championships.
Who brings Hocevar to Cup?
Hocevar is a Chevrolet driver and there are three big openings at Chevrolet teams for 2024; Legacy Motor Club, Kaulig Racing, and Spire Motorsports. Legacy is switching to Toyota in 2024. The most likely candidate will be John Hunter Nemechek to drive the #42 in 2024. Kaulig Racing’s open seat is more of a mystery. Many names are being thrown into the mix, Austin Hill being one.
Lastly and most likely, Spire Motorsports. Hocevar made his first Cup start with Spire and drove their Xfinity car this year. Ty Dillon’s contract with Spire ends at the end of the 2023 season and his results are not great. Signs are pointing to Hocevar heading there for 2024.
With Spire, he can run a similar rookie year to Ty Gibbs. Gibbs is making Xfinity starts alongside his full-time starts in Cup, at tracks he needs experience at. Hocevar, could run an Xfinity race before his Cup race to get more seat time and experience at a new track.