Carson Hocevar would not be denied.
The 17-year-old from Portage, Michigan was in firm control of the CRA Super Series Show Me State Showdown 125 when a flat right front with 17 laps to go threatened to end his night.
Contact on the third lap with Chris Davidson while racing for second had created a tire rub that didn’t manifest itself until well after he had taken the lead. Hocevar had built a two second lead over Stephen Nasse and was simply cruising to the finish when the tire finally punctured and send the No. 114 around in Turn 1.
Hocevar would pit to bolt on a fresher right front and used the most important tire to drive back through the field from 14th, passing Nasse on the final lap and driving away off Turn 4 to break a winless streak that dates back to 2018.
He wore both the near heartache and exuberance on his face in Victory Lane upon receiving a hug from crew chief Zach Dunson.
“I let my guys down, I thought I let them down in Turns 1 and 2,” Hocevar said in reference to the contact with Davidson. “I misjudged it and it made the right front go down.
“I didn’t think I could get back up there, but I sure as hell was going to try. I’m so thankful for these guys. I’m not one to cry in victory lane but I went winless last year and had a great group and I’m so thankful.”
The victory was his first since winning a Pro Late Model race at Auto City Speedway in 2018.
While the fresher right front certainly helped Hocevar, an intense battle for the lead materialized in his absence with Nasse unable to drive away from Kyle Crump. Their side-by-side battle invited reigning Snowball Derby winner Travis Braden into the fray and stacked the field up enough for Hocevar to drive by all of them.
Hocevar was second coming to the white flag, dove under Nasse into Turn 1, and completed the pass on the exit of Turn 4.
“I didn’t know I could do it until I threw it 17 car lengths too deep into Turn 3,” Hocevar said of the final lap alongside Nasse. “I got into him a little and I didn’t want to do it that way. I have so much respect for all of those guys I passed. The right front helped for sure.”
Nasse just couldn’t escape Crump on that last run, but conceded that Hocevar likely had the better car on Saturday regardless.
“It was good, hard racing you know,” Nasse said. “I definitely got used up there by the No. 114 but it’s expected in short track racing. He had a fast car, I do believe he had a better car at the end of the race. He was just able to get a new right front, a new right front means so much at this track and it was shown by how he came back through the field.”
Meanwhile, Crump worked his way up through the field from ninth. He raced Nasse respectfully, which in hindsight bought the time for Hocevar to catch them, but left Lebanon, Missouri in high spirits regardless.
“I was happy for the caution with respect to Carson because my car was better on cold tires,” Crump said. “I was really trying to get Nasse clean. I gave him a nudge in one corner and he got loose up top on the other end.
“I got right to the bumper cover and he pinched me tight, but I really wanted to run him clean. It made for a fun night of racing but I am a little sad that I came up short.”
Bubba Pollard, meanwhile, uncharacteristically ran outside the top-10 all night and pulled off the track inside the final 50 laps once it became obvious that they would not be able to score a top-10 with the No. 26.
The complete results can be found below.
- Carson Hocevar
- Stephen Nasse
- Kyle Crump
- Travis Braden
- Michael Simko
- Chris Davidson
- Josh Brock
- Hunter Jack
- Boris Jurkovic
- Sammy Smith
- Cody Dempster
- John DeAngelis Jr
- Logan Runyon
- Mike Wallace
- Mark Neff
- Jack Dossey III
- Jaren Crabtree
- Bubba Pollard
- Jake Garcia
- Greg Van Alst
- Augie Grill
- Cody Coughlin
- Austin Kunert
- Michael House
- Brian Campbell