Focus on Derby: Hocevar Gearing up for First AttemptScott Menlen
Special from Speed51.com – Carson Hocevar lit the short track racing world on fire in 2017, winning three JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour races and becoming the youngest NASCAR champion when he won the Super Late Model track championship at Berlin Raceway (MI). With another full year under his belt, the 15-year-old racer from Portage, Michigan is now gearing up for his toughest task yet.
After competing in last year’s Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway, Hocevar will head back to Five Flags Speedway (FL) to pull double-duty and attempt to race in the Snowball Derby for the first time. While Hocevar will be looking to make his first start in the Snowball Derby, he will race with a team that has previous Derby experience at the Pensacola oval.
Brandon McReynolds finished 10th with KBR Development in the 50th Annual Snowball Derby. Hocevar and the KBR team will now look to build on that as he straps into the team’s No. 14 Super Late Model for the 51st Annual Snowball Derby.
“It’s a tough race for sure,” Hocevar told Speed51.com. “It’s definitely the hardest race to make. It’s almost like two races within itself. You got to make the show and once you do that, then you got to focus on your race piece.”
To be successful, Hocevar believes his team will need to work on something they don’t normally work on: qualifying trim.
“We don’t focus on qualifying trim a whole lot with our program, but that’s definitely something we have to work on during the week,” he stated. “But I’m really excited. Brandon McReynolds ran with us last year and he ran overall well and hopefully we can improve on that and run better.”
Hocevar competed in the Southern Super Series finale at Five Flags Speedway in September to help prepare for next month’s Snowball Derby. Hocevar showed speed early when he qualified fourth fastest out of over 30 cars, but he struggled throughout the race and finished one lap down in 16th. However, he and his team feel confident after their performance for what’s to come.
“We qualified really well and we were a little shocked there,” Hocevar said. “We didn’t really mock or focus on any qualifying runs per say, we were just worried on race runs. It seems to be our main ordeal going into race weekends, but we qualified fourth so that was pretty good for sure and we were only half a tenth off, so that was definitely a good eye opener.
“In the race, we were just a little bit tight,” Hocevar continued. “We freed it up during the break and we were a lot faster than we were in the beginning. We just need to work on that a little bit and I think we’ll be pretty good.”
The Snowball Derby has jumpstarted the careers of young drivers such as Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and John Hunter Nemecheck. At the age of 15, Hocevar would become the youngest winner in the history of the race if he were to win.
As he prepares for his journey to Pensacola, Florida, he is ready to try to write his own story in Snowball Derby history.
“We just need to get through all three hundred laps,” Hocevar stated. “It would be cool. As Bob Dillner said, it would be the dark horse story, or a Cinderella story is what he called it. It would be real cool but we just got to get to three hundred laps. It just comes down to that last pit stop and for my guys to make the correct calls and the right adjustments. Hopefully we’ll be there at the end.”
The 51st Annual Snowball Derby will take place on Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.
Race fans unable to attend the 51st Annual Snowball Derby in person will be able to watch a pay-per-view broadcast all week long on Speed51.com. Five-day video tickets can be purchased now for $74.99 ($35 savings) to watch all of the action. Click here to purchase your video ticket today.
-Story by Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Tom DeVette