When fate dealt Carson Hocevar another heartache Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Niece Motorsport teammate Ross Chastain took full advantage—with a serendipitous push from Grant Enfinger.
On the final lap of the second overtime in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series contest, Chastain raced side-by-side on the backstretch with John Hunter Nemechek, before the timely push from Enfinger propelled him forward and enabled him to clear Nemechek’s No. 4 Toyota.
Chastain crossed the finish line .102 seconds ahead of Enfinger, with Nemechek running third, .413 seconds behind the race winner.
When he climbed out of his No. 41 Chevrolet on the frontstretch, however, Chastain could talk only of Hocevar, who dominated the event, only to see it slip away after a devastating late caution.
“I hate it so much for Carson,” said Chastain, who won for the first time this season, the first time at Charlotte and the fourth time in his career. “I didn’t give him the push he needed to win (on the first attempt at overtime)… Man, I’m so proud of Carson Hocevar.
“I’ll say that over and over. That guy’s a future star. He’s such a goofy kid, but I love him. He learns so quick.”
Hocevar, who lost the lead four laps short of the finish and ran second at Bristol’s Dirt Track in April, learned a painful lesson on Friday night after leading a race-high 57 laps.
He held an advantage that had stabilized at slightly more than six seconds when Jesse Little’s Chevrolet broke loose over the bumps in Turn 3 and carried Tyler Ankrum Toyota into the outside wall.
The 19-year-old Hocevar chose the inside lane for the final restart, and Ryan Preece, in the outside lane, nosed ahead past the start/finish line when Chastain spun his tires and failed to provide Hocevar with a push.
Running beside Preece on Lap 136 in the first attempt at overtime, Hocevar lost control and slid up the track into Preece’s No. 17 Ford, damaging both vehicles.
“A dumbass move by myself,” acknowledged Hocevar, who climbed from his No. 42 Chevrolet after the race and sat on the pavement, his head between his hands. “It sucks. I mean I tried really hard—I tried too hard.
“I didn’t get a good restart. I tried too hard, tried to wash (Preece) up and just crashed myself. I feel like just crying.”
Preece finished 11th after pitting with a flat tire—thanks to the wreck. He didn’t mince words on pit lane.
“Don’t wreck the guy on the outside of you trying to win your first race,” Preece said pointedly. “Don’t do it.”
After finishing second, Enfinger feels he has an IOU from Chastain.
“I’m glad to push my buddy Ross to a win,” Enfinger said. “In my book, he owes me one.”
Christian Eckes ran fourth, followed by Zane Smith, who led 52 laps and won the first stage. Tanner Gray, Kyle Busch, Chandler Smith, Stewart Friesen and Ben Rhodes completed the top 10.
Rhodes won Stage 2 by staying out on old tires and catching an opportune caution when Matt Mills crashed with Jack Wood in Turn 4 three laps short of the send of the 30-lap stage.
Ultimately, Hocevar came home 16th, the last driver on the lead lap. Mexican driver Max Gutierrez finished 26th in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut.
— NASCAR Wire Service —
See race details at: Race Results, Driver Points Standings, Owner Points Standings, Cumulative Report, Penalty Report