For drivers under 18 years of age, their ARCA Menards Series season didn't start with the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway. ARCA rules stipulate that drivers under 18 can only race on tracks one mile and under, meaning the 2.5-mile Daytona tri-oval is off limits.
For 16-year-old Carson Hocevar (No. 28 KBR Development Chevrolet), his season starts in the ARCA Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Five Flags Speedway, where his 2018 racing season ended in the famed Snowball Derby last December. And while not being able to race on the superspeedways means Hocevar won't be competing for the overall series championship, he will be chasing after the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge title.
His team, owned by Michigan businessman Mike Bursley, will compete for the owner’s championship in 2019 as Hocevar steps out of the cockpit for the superspeedway races. At Daytona, the No. 28 team had former Talladega winner Brandon McReynolds at the wheel. McReynolds, the son of NASCAR on Fox analyst Larry McReynolds, was in contention to win before a late nudge in the draft sent him out of control and into the garage area resulting in a 25th-place finish.
Unfortunately for Portage, Michigan high school student Hocevar, his last visit to Five Flags Speedway in the 2018 Derby was also short lived. He dropped out after just 55 laps, leaving him 35th in the 36-car starting field. Hocevar has put that out of his mind, instead looking forward to another chance to compete at a track he enjoys.
"Going back to Pensacola is great and it’s by far one of my favorite tracks to race at," Hocevar said. "Having the experience of running at Five Flags Speedway in the late model will help tremendously, especially with what I learned running the Snowball Derby last December."
Hocevar's bad luck in his last race at Pensacola isn't an indication of how his 2018 went. He made three ARCA Menards Series starts at Toledo, Berlin, and Lucas Oil and earned two top-five finishes - fourth at Berlin and fifth at Lucas Oil - and never finished worse than eleventh. He also started from the General Tire Pole at Berlin after he set the fastest time in practice before qualifying was washed out due to inclement weather.
"Last year we ran really good in our three starts, so I’m excited to see what we have for the ARCA Menards Series this year," Hocevar said. "I am beyond excited to just get back in a race car. KBR Development has improved our program immensely since last year."
At the age of 12, Hocevar became the youngest driver in Berlin's storied history to win an outlaw late model feature and at the age of 13 a super late model feature. He won the 2017 Berlin track championship and also won three CRA/JEG's late model races. Success in stock cars came after he became the winningest driver in USAC .25 Midget history with 79 national wins and 15 national championships.
"For 2019, we just want to take things one step at a time," Hocevar said. "We marked a pole off last season at Berlin, but we have to go into the season like we did before my first ARCA start last year. Hopefully we can come out of Pensacola running all the laps with our Scott’s Chevrolet, and see how we end up."
Hocevar and the rest of the ARCA Menards Series take to the half-mile Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida on Saturday, March 9. Practice starts at 1 pm ET/12 pm CT; General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 4:30 pm ET/3:30 pm CT; and the ARCA Pensacola 200 is set to go green at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT and will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates throughout all on track sessions free for ARCA for Me members. New members may register for free at ARCARacing.com/login.
-ARCA Menards Series Press Release and Photo