James Thomas | NASCAR Digital Media
CONCORD, N.C. — Carson Hocevar exited his No. 42 Chevrolet in a rush. His next moves were several demonstrative gestures, body language that told his anguish in a series of slumps against his truck’s side, a head-down show of exasperation on the roof, and consolation embraces with his Niece Motorsports crew.
That Friday night scene from Charlotte Motor Speedway was part of the flood of emotion from another flirtation with his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. Rinse and repeat from Darlington, from Bristol’s dirt – two other recent close brushes for the 19-year-old, who wound up 16th in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200.
“It hurts,” Hocevar said later, after congratulating victorious teammate Ross Chastain. “I mean, the last few times, we haven’t been the best truck. Today it was like unheard of to be that good.”
Just a few pit stalls ahead, the emotional outpouring had a different tone altogether, though just as emphatic. Ryan Preece, the versatile 31-year-old veteran, was livid, directing his angst toward the youngster who had just knocked them both from contention on the next-to-last restart.
Preece stomped off, invoking the name of the Modified Tour legends that he grew up idolizing and later racing against for comparison’s sake.
“He needs to learn how to race,” Preece told MRN Radio. He wound up 11th in a damaged No. 17 Ford. “I mean, there’s one thing, I’ve raced with a lot of great race car drivers, Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher, Reggie Ruggiero — all these guys — and if you drove like that, they kicked your ass. So it’s … no one’s teaching these kids, but somebody needs to and it’s eventually going to be me.”
By then, Hocevar had already shouldered the blame for washing up into Preece’s truck twice – once at the exit of Turn 2 and again through Turns 3 and 4 to push the race into double overtime on Lap 135. Little consolation for Preece, who is running a national-series tripleheader this weekend.
“He makes a lot of mistakes. I watch it week in and week out,” Preece said. “It’s a mistake when you learn the first time. It’s not a mistake when you continually do it over and over again. It’s called a bad habit.”
Chastain, for his part, said that Hocevar deserved to win. The teenager led a race-best 57 laps. His misfortune cleared the way for Chastain, who led just four, and left a lingering bad taste. Even then, Hocevar stood at the back of his Niece Motorsports hauler and took pictures with his phone to better remember the moment, even as he defended himself from Preece’s criticisms.
“I mean, I crashed him,” Hocevar said. “I mean, if he wants to high praise of young drivers with no respect, I mean, I just spanked his ass. I waxed him. He was the next best, but I put it to him. I mean, I messed up. I made a mistake. I obviously wasn’t gonna try and crash myself and obviously crash him. I just tried to use them up a little bit but not even like to door him because you crash when you door each other. …
“I somewhat heard what he was saying on MRN, and he has every right to be mad and say what he wants, but I don’t agree with it. I think it’s just hard racing on old tires, and I made a mistake and it cost both of us. It’s just is what it is. I’m not gonna go talk.”
Preece had no plans for that, either. “(Expletive) no,” he said in a final blister on the Motor Racing Network’s air.