In almost all aspects of life, there are those individuals you meet that, although they seemingly have the odds stacked against them, their energy and charisma are so contagious that you cannot help but root them on. More often than not, these individuals are referred to as ‘underdogs’, and all major sports have had their share with NASCAR being no exception. From the likes of Michael Waltrip to Daniel Hemric, there have been countless drivers who have earned the love and admiration of the sports fans through their determination, drive, and eventual triumphs. However, currently there is perhaps no greater underdog capturing hearts across America than Carson Hocevar.
Carson S. Hocevar was born on January 28th, 2003 in Portage, Michigan. For young Carson, already an avid racing fan, school was never something he much cared for, a hatred that created a desire to turn racing into more than just a hobby.
“It’s a really odd thought”, he admitted, “but one day I came home from school, and I hated school and thought race car drivers were even cooler than they were because they didn’t have to go to school!”
From there forward he had decided that racing was the only career path he wanted to follow. By the age of seven, he began to race quarter midgets, amassing a grand total of 79 feature wins and 15 national championships. From there he moved on to late models, racing at the famed Berlin Raceway and winning the tracks Outlaw Late Model championship at just the age of 12 in 2015. He won his first Super Late Model race at the track in 2016, the same year that NASCAR would stop all drivers under the age of 14 from competing at its sanctioned tracks. He would return to the track a year later, however, and go on to win the track’s Super Late Model championship.
Carson’s local success didn’t go unnoticed by the major leagues of racing, landing himself an ARCA deal in 2018 with KBR Development, driving the #35 car for the team in a debut at Toledo Speedway where he would go on to finish 11th. He would go on to race two more races for the team that season, as well as twelve more races for the team the following season. Across his ARCA career, he would go on to collect seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10 finishes, along with two pole awards at Berlin Raceway and Salem Speedway. It was evident that Carson’s career was moving along fast for his age, as he seemingly could just adapt to whatever vehicle he sat behind the wheel of.
“A race car is a race car, you eventually pick it up, I just think the quick part has led me where I am right now.” And where is he right now? The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, of course.
Hocevar made his Truck Series debut in 2019, with Jordan Anderson Racing at the famed Eldora Speedway, driving the #3 Chevy Silverado. He qualified for the main event at the track by finishing third in the third qualifying heat race. He would go on to finish 25th in the main event. He would return to the Truck Series in November of that year for the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway, once again driving for Jordan Anderson Racing, this time driving the #56 Chevy Silverado in partnership with Hill Motorsports where he finished 23rd.
His decent runs with Jordan Anderson Racing managed to catch the attention of Niece Motorsports, who signed young Carson on to a seven-race deal driving the #42 Chevy Silverado. The part-time schedule consisted of a handful of top-twenty finishes which was enough for Niece to give Hocevar a shot at a full-time season in 2020. Carson entered his first full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season with something to prove, starting off with a season-opening fifth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway. Though a win eluded him, he put himself in a position to nearly win multiple races, rounding off his rookie season with three top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes. His success allowed him to be resigned full-time for the 2022 season, and although hopes were high at the beginning of the year, they quickly came shattering down.
High off the success of his rookie year, Carson entered the season with one goal in mind, “Just try and win really.”
He began the year off right with a top-10 finish at Daytona, and later another at Circuit of the Americas. His real talent, however, shined as he went on to have back-to-back second-place finishes at both Bristol and Darlington. The reality of coming close to a win only to have it escape him twice stung, but Carson continued to soldier on, collecting another top-10 finish at Texas Motor Speedway. Tragedy struck, however, for Carson at the beginning of the summer, as his girlfriend and racer, Peyton Lanphear, announced that she had been diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And if things couldn’t have gotten any worse, in the final laps of the race at World Wide Technologies Raceway, Carson was involved in an incident that resulted in a broken tibia.
It was safe to say that Carson Hocevar felt the most pressure on him than he ever had before. Between coming up short, his girlfriend’s battle with cancer, and his injury, the stress was more present for him than ever.
“I’ve struggled really really hard with the stress and pressure of it these last few months… and now that I do have it, I’m struggling to compensate.”
Despite all the odds stacked against him, Carson was determined to keep going. After being able to hastily receive surgery for his ankle injury, Carson was back at the track the following week at Sonoma. He had to navigate around on crutches, but he was still persistent upon at the very least, starting the race. And he did, making it 10 laps before being relieved by Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez, who finished the race for him. This year has been one of continuous ups and downs for Hocevar, but he has kept on fighting, going on to earn himself four top-five finishes since his incident at Gateway.
Although a win has still eluded him, he hasn’t lost hope, “Doing more races as a whole throughout the year will make me way better than I am today.”
All major sports have their underdogs, that one person who although they have the odds seemingly stacked against them, has such an infectious personality, you cannot help but cheer them on. Carson Hocevar may be the sport’s biggest underdog currently, but he still has so much more to give and to prove to all the nay-sayers.
“I wanna race on Sunday, just like every driver, I think,” but at the end of the day he just wants to make the most of what he has, no matter the circumstances, “I’m just having fun and enjoying each moment. You never know, when your last one will come.”
Featured image credits to Patrick Valley