Hocevar scores second Truck career triumph at Nashville

In a season where he silenced his doubters and became a NASCAR race winner for the first time in his career, Carson Hocevar doubled down with another reason to celebrate after scoring a late victory in the Rackley Roofing 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on Friday, June 23.

The 20-year-old Hocevar from Portage, Michigan, led the final 40 of 150-scheduled laps in an event where he rolled off the starting grid in seventh place before keeping pace with the front-runners as the event proceeded under the lights. He assumed the lead for the first time during a restart with 40 laps remaining and Hocevar appeared to be heading toward a potential victory when a late two-truck incident with 10 laps remaining stalled his momentum momentarily. After being one of select competitors to remain on the track instead of pitting for fresh tires, Hocevar then managed to fend off a late charge from reigning series champion Zane Smith during a three-lap shootout to claim the second checkered flag of this season and of his youthful career.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, rookie Nick Sanchez notched his third career pole position after posting a pole-winning lap at 161.915 mph in 29.571 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Bayley Currey, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 161.844 mph in 29.584 seconds.

Prior to the event, Toni Breidinger and Dean Thompson dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective trucks.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Sanchez and Currey briefly dueled for the lead entering the first turn until Sanchez rocketed ahead on the inside lane through the first turn. With Sanchez out in front through the backstretch, rookie Rajah Caruth, who qualified third, battled Currey for second. Corey Heim, the series points leader who returned from a one-race absence due to illness that caused him to miss the previous event at World Wide Technology Raceway in early June, joined the battle entering the third turn. Caruth would muscle ahead and acquire the runner-up spot as Sanchez proceeded to lead the first lap.

Three laps later and amid a series of early on-track battles while Sanchez continued to lead ahead of Caruth, the first caution of the event. Hailie Deegan, who was battling Lawless Alan for a spot within the top 20, got loose underneath Alan in Turn 3 as both competitors slipped sideways up the groove, with Deegan barely clipping the No. 51 Rowdy Manufacturing Chevrolet Silverado RST piloted by Jack Wood. While Deegan backed her No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150 into Turn 3’s outside wall, Alan, who was trying to save his sideways truck, ended up darting back towards the wall as he was hit by Wood before both competitors hit the wall and emerged with damaged trucks.

When the race restarted under green on the ninth lap, Sanchez fended off Caruth entering the first turn to retain the lead while Zane Smith, who restarted within the top six, got loose entering the first turn, but managed to continue without losing ground of the leaders. Shortly after, however, the caution returned when Alan blew a right-side tire and smacked the outside wall in Turn 1, his second incident of the night, and became the first retiree of the event.

During the proceeding restart on Lap 16, Sanchez and Caruth battled for the lead until Sanchez managed to pull ahead of Caruth to retain the lead during the following lap. With Sanchez leading the field, Carson Hocevar, who started seventh, battled and overtook teammate Currey for third as Corey Heim, Zane Smith and rookie Taylor Gray battled for fifth.

Through the first 25 scheduled laps, Sanchez was leading by two-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Caruth while third-place Hocevar trailed by more than a second. Behind, Zane Smith and Currey battled for fourth while Heim, Tyler Ankrum, Taylor Gray, Grant Enfinger and Tanner Gray were running in the top 10. Meanwhile, Matt DiBenedetto was in 11th ahead of Stewart Friesen, Christian Eckes, Ben Rhodes and Chase Purdy while rookie Daniel Dye, rookie Jake Garcia, Matt Crafton, Ty Majeski and Colby Howard occupied the top 20.

Five laps later, Sanchez continued to lead by a tenth of a second over Caruth, who continued to intimidate and challenge Sanchez for the lead through every turn and corner. Behind, Zane Smith muscled his Speedco Ford F-150 into third place over Hocevar and Currey while Heim trailed in sixth place.

During the proceeding five laps, the battle for the lead continued to ignite between Sanchez and Caruth. With both competitors encountering lapped traffic, Caruth made several side-by-side challenges on Sanchez to acquire the lead, but Sanchez would manage to fend off Caruth’s attacks by the time both returned to the start/finish line.

On Lap 36, Caruth managed to lead a lap for himself over Sanchez. A lap later, however, Caruth was quickly overtaken by Sanchez as Zane Smith followed suit. Zane Smith would then become the new race leader on Lap 39 after assuming the top spot over Sanchez while Caruth, who was off the pace, made an unscheduled pit stop to address a loss of fuel pressure to his No. 24 Born Driven Chevrolet Silverado RST.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 45, Zane Smith, who stretched his advantage to more than two seconds after acquiring the lead on Lap 39, captured his second stage victory of the 2023 season. Sanchez settled in second as he trailed Smith by more than two seconds while Currey, Hocevar, Heim, Ankrum, Tanner Gray, Enfinger, DiBenedetto and Taylor Gray were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Zane Smith pitted. Following the pit stops, Heim managed to squeak ahead and exit first with the lead followed by Sanchez, Currey, Zane Smith, Ankrum and Taylor Gray.

The second stage started on Lap 53 as Heim and Sanchez occupied the front row. At the start, Heim retained the lead followed by Currey, who overtook Sanchez for second after pushing Heim into the lead at the restart mark. Taylor Gray would then challenge Sanchez for third entering the backstretch before Sanchez retained the spot followed by Zane Smith. Gray would then get dropkicked to eighth as Rhodes, Hocevar and Ankrum overtook him for spots within the top seven. Soon after, Gray would be challenged by Matt DiBenedetto, Eckes and a steaming pack of competitors for eighth during the proceeding laps as Heim retained the lead over Currey and a hard-charging Zane Smith.

By Lap 60, Heim’s No. 11 Safelite Toyota Tundra TRD Pro was leading by two-tenths of a second over Currey’s No. 41 Unishippers Chevrolet Silverado RST while third-place Zane Smith trailed by more than a second. Sanchez, meanwhile, was in fourth ahead of Hocevar while Rhodes, Ankrum, DiBenedetto, Taylor Gray and Christian Eckes were in the top 10.

Two laps later, Currey led a lap for himself amid a fierce battle with Heim. Both competitors would then duel for the lead before Heim reassumed the top spot during the proceeding lap. With both competitors continuing to battle for the lead by Lap 65, Heim fended off Currey’s repeated attacks to retain the lead as Zane Smith narrowed his deficit to six-tenths of a second as he started to join the battle for the lead.

At the halfway mark on Lap 75, Heim was leading by two-tenths of a second over Currey followed by Zane Smith, Hocevar and Sanchez while Rhodes, Ankrum, DiBenedetto, Tanner Gray and Taylor Gray were in the top 10. Behind, Eckes was in 11th ahead of Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Chase Purdy and Daniel Dye while newcomer Jake Drew, Jake Garcia, Dean Thompson, Matt Crafton and Colby Howard were running in the top 20. Meanwhile, Ty Majeski, who was slow on the track three laps earlier due to an electrical issue, had pulled his truck off the course without drawing a caution.

Then on Lap 84, the fourth caution of the event flew when Stewart Friesen spun his No. 52 Ferris Commercial Mowers Toyota Tundra TRD Pro entering Turn 4. During the caution period, DiBenedetto remained on the track to assume the race lead in his No. 25 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet Silverado RST while the rest of the lead lap field led by Heim pitted. Following the pit stops, Heim exited pit road first followed by Zane Smith, Hocevar, Rhodes and Currey. Amid the pit stops, Crafton was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation while Layne Riggs was also penalized for speeding on pit road.

With five laps remaining in the second stage, the race restarted under green. At the start, DiBenedetto maintained the lead through the first two turns as Rhodes, Heim and Zane Smith battled behind while fanned out to three lanes. Through the backstretch, however, Heim made his move beneath DiBenedetto and reassumed the lead. Amid the on-track jostles for spots, DiBenedetto was left to battle Hocevar and Zane Smith to retain second amid competing on worn tires while Heim started to pull away with the lead.

Then with three laps remaining in the second stage, the caution returned when Daniel Dye, who was running outside the top 10, got loose as his truck washed up the track through Turns 1 and 2. Dye then clipped Layne Riggs as his truck started to turn down towards the track’s banking as Riggs was sent spinning through the backstretch. Riggs was then T-boned by an oncoming Bret Holmes as both competitors came to a rest with wrecked trucks.

The recent caution period for the multi-truck wreck was enough for the second stage scheduled to conclude on Lap 95 to finish under caution as Heim captured his fifth stage victory of the 2023 season. Hocevar trailed in second followed by DiBenedetto while Zane Smith, Rhodes, Ankrum, Currey, Tanner Gray, Jake Drew and Eckes were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, select names that included DiBenedetto pitted while the rest led by Heim remained on the track. Among those who pitted included Grant Enfinger, the series’ recent winner at World Wide Technology Raceway who pitted for repairs to his left front after making contact with Dean Thompson on pit road during the previous caution period.

With 48 laps remaining, the final stage started under green as Heim and Hocevar occupied the front row. At the start, Heim rocketed away from Hocevar and the field to retain the lead, though Hocevar kept Heim close within his sights. Behind, Zane Smith and Ben Rhodes battled for third while Currey trailed in fifth ahead of Ankrum, Tanner Gray, Jake Drew, Eckes and Sanchez.

Two laps later, the caution returned when Thompson, who was battling Eckes for ninth, got loose beneath Eckes and started to wash up the track as he barely clipped Eckes’ No. 19 NAPA Chevrolet Silverado RST before he spun and backed his No. 5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota Tundra TRD Pro into the outside wall, thus damaging his rear deck lid, in Turn 3. During the caution period, nearly the entire field led by Heim remained on the track while select names that included Enfinger, Eckes, Friesen and Layne Riggs pitted.

During the following restart with 40 laps remaining, Heim and Hocevar dueled dead even for the lead entering the first two turns until Hocevar rocketed his No. 42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Silverado RST into the lead. With Hocevar emerging as the new leader of the event, Heim fell back to second while Zane Smith and Currey battled for third in front of Ankrum and Rhodes.

With 35 laps remaining, Hocevar was leading by nine-tenths of a second over Heim while Currey and Zane Smith, both of whom trailed the leader by more than a second, continued to battle for third as Ankrum was trying to fend off Rhodes and Sanchez for fifth. Hocevar would proceed to extend his advantage to more than a second over the new runner-up competitor Zane Smith with 30 laps remaining.

Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Hocevar stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Zane Smith while third-place Heim trailed by more than three seconds. Currey and Rhodes were running in the top five while Sanchez, Ankrum, Purdy, Drew and Tanner Gray were battling in the top 10.

Then with 10 laps remaining, the caution flew when Friesen, who was running 22nd, got loose and slipped sideways entering Turn 4 as he clipped Enfinger before colliding into Eckes and sending both to spin across the frontstretch grass. At the moment of caution, Hocevar was leading by more than a second over Zane Smith while Heim, Currey and Sanchez were scored in the top five.

During the caution period, names that included Hocevar, Zane Smith, Heim, Chase Purdy, Tanner Gray and Jake Garcia remained on the track while the rest led by Currey and Sanchez pitted amid a mixed strategy.

Down to a three-lap shootout, as Hocevar and Zane Smith occupied the front row, Hocevar received a big push from Chase Purdy to rocket ahead with the lead at the restart zone. As the field fanned out entering the first turn, Hocevar retained the lead while Zane Smith and Heim pursued the leader. Hocevar would continue to lead throughout the circuit while the field behind jostled for late positions.

With two laps remaining, Sanchez, racing on fresh tires in his No. 2 Gainbridge Chevrolet Silverado RST, overtook Heim for third while Hocevar stabilized his advantage to three-tenths of a second over Smith.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hocevar remained as the leader by three-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Zane Smith. Smith then tried to gain ground on Hocevar entering Turn 1, but he went wide and lost his momentum as Hocevar muscled away on the inside lane. Then through the backstretch, Smith and Sanchez set their final lap moves on Hocevar, but neither prevailed approaching Turns 3 and 4. This allowed Hocevar to pull away and beat both within three-tenths of a second to grab his second checkered flag of this season and of his career.

With the victory, Hocevar joined Zane Smith, Christian Eckes and Grant Enfinger as the only competitors to achieve multiple Craftsman Truck Series victories this season while also recording the sixth career victory for Niece Motorsports. The Nashville victory occurred more than two months after the Michigan native claimed his first Truck triumph at Texas Motor Speedway amid a wild last-lap battle involving Nick Sanchez and Zane Smith.

In addition, Hocevar, who is coming off four consecutive top-five results in recent weeks, claimed the third and final $50,000 bonus as part of this year’s Craftsman Triple Truck Challenge bonus.

“I would say I enjoy [this ride] a lot right now,” Hocevar said on FS1. “I led [a race] to the [start/finish] line after the white [flag] and carried it around, so I could finally get that out of the rest. Hopefully, that puts together any doubters. [Team owner] Al Niece, I hope he lets me drive a truck for a long time because I wanna win a lot of races for him. In the meantime, hopefully, I can win a lot more races everywhere else, under the sun or any car I get in. [Crew chief] Phil Gould’s a magician with these things and just glad I’m finally being able to put a fraction together of what he deserves.”

Meanwhile, Zane Smith, who is coming off four consecutive weeks of finishing 20th or worse, rallied by finishing in second place at Nashville for a second consecutive season while Nick Sanchez claimed his second top-three result of his career by finishing in third place.

“Yeah, definitely frustrating,” Smith said. “I wanna win here really bad. I love this place. Just needed to be better on restarts. [I] Struggled really bad all night from first to second [gear], but third to fourth, that was really good. [The leaders] would just be too far ahead and then, that final restart, [Heim] had just jumped outside of us and just pulled us back even more. I was catching [Hocevar]. I feel like we were better than him, but he just had the track position and he had the clean air. We did not.”

“At the end of the day, it was a good points night,” Sanchez added. “That’s what we needed, but I’d kind of be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. Third’s good, but I think we had the fastest truck. Just got to get better on my end. Got to execute a little better. I lost a little bit on pit road, so that hurt us. [I] Felt like we were always fighting behind, but can’t say enough about this No. 2 Rev Racing, Gainbridge Chevrolet crew. Every week, fast truck, so just go to Mid-Ohio and try again.”

Heim ended up in fourth place despite leading a race-high 57 laps, but he managed to retain the lead in the regular-season standings, while Bayley Currey notched his second top-five career result by finishing fifth.

Chase Purdy, Matt DiBenedetto, Tyler Ankrum, Ben Rhodes and rookie Jake Garcia completed the top 10 in the final running order.

Notably, Jake Drew, the reigning ARCA Menards Series West champion, finished 12th in his Truck Series debut while Toni Breidinger finished 17th in her third Truck career start. Enfinger ended up 13th while Friesen and Eckes settled in 18th and 23rd, respectively, following their late wreck.

There were nine lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured seven cautions for 43 laps. In addition, 18 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the 13th event of the 2023 Craftsman Truck Series season, Corey Heim leads the regular-season standings by 16 points over Zane Smith, 31 over Grant Enfinger, 44 over Ty Majeski and 47 over Ben Rhodes.

With three regular-season events remaining on the schedule, Christian Eckes, Zane Smith, Carson Hocevar, Grant Enfinger, Corey Heim and Ben Rhodes are currently locked into the 2023 Truck Series Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the regular-season stretch. Ty Majeski, Matt DiBenedetto, Matt Crafton and Nick Sanchez are above the top-10 cutline based on points, with Sanchez occupying the final transfer spot by six points over both Stewart Friesen and Tanner Gray, 39 over Chase Purdy and 63 over Jake Garcia.


1. Carson Hocevar, 40 laps led

2. Zane Smith, 11 laps led, Stage 1 winner

3. Nick Sanchez, 38 laps led

4. Corey Heim, 57 laps led, Stage 2 winner

5. Bayley Currey, one lap led

6. Chase Purdy

7. Matt DiBenedetto, three laps led

8. Tyler Ankrum

9. Ben Rhodes

10. Jake Garcia

11. Tanner Gray

12. Jake Drew

13. Grant Enfinger

14. Taylor Gray

15. Matt Crafton

16. Timmy Hill

17. Toni Breidinger

18. Stewart Friesen

19. Nick Leitz, one lap down

20. Mason Maggio, one lap down

21. Cory Roper, two laps down

 22. Daniel Dye, two laps down

23. Christian Eckes, two laps down

24. Jonathan Shafer, three laps down

25. Spencer Boyd, three laps down

26. Chase Janes, three laps down

27. Layne Riggs, three laps down

28. Hailie Deegan, four laps down

29. Colby Howard, six laps down

30. Jack Wood, six laps down

31. Ty Majeski, 17 laps down

32. Rajah Caruth, 31 laps down, one lap led

33. Dean Thompson – OUT, Dvp

34. Bret Holmes – OUT, Accident

35. Memphis Villarreal – OUT, Electrical

36. Lawless Alan – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season is the series’ second annual visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The event is scheduled to occur on July 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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