MARNE – Carson Hocevar stood in Victory Lane after winning the July 16 Super Late Model feature at Berlin Raceway, and he explained that his goal is to someday race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The 13-year old Portage youth told the crowd Saturday night that his goal hasn’t changed a bit, even though NASCAR ruled last week that he is too young to race at sanctioned tracks like Berlin – he will have to wait until he’s 14.
Hocevar returned to Berlin this weekend – minus his car and driver’s suit. He received a huge ovation after completing his interview with Berlin track announcer Andy O’Riley prior to the evening’s 60-lap Super Late Model main.
“I have the same goal as when I talked to you in Victory Lane a couple of weeks ago,” Hocevar said. “My biggest goal is to be in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but I still have to climb my way there. Luckily, I have a great group of Berlin supporters, fans and KBR Development.
“Berlin Raceway and KBR Development really tried to do everything they could to see what they could do and what they could change to let me race this week and the rest of the season.”
Hocevar doesn’t expect to be sidelined for long. He plans to race in Saturday’s JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour race at Spitzer Motor Speedway in Mansfield, Ohio, which is a non-NASCAR sanctioned track.
Berlin became a NASCAR sanctioned track during the offseason, and Berlin president Mike Bursley said he’s not sure what the future holds between the track and NASCAR.
Bursley is a co-owner of the Zeeland-based Team KBR, which invited Hocevar to race one of its Super Late Models this season. Hocevar ran his family-owned Outlaw Late Model the entire 2015 season at Berlin at the age of 12, and he continued to race in that division this summer, too. However, Berlin wasn’t a NASCAR sanctioned track until this year.
Bursley said Berlin was aware of NASCAR’s minimum age rule and that Berlin alerted NASCAR that three of its drivers – Hocevar, Christopher Joyce and Joe Moody – were all 13 years old when the season began in April. Bursley added that NASCAR gave the trio the green light to race as long as Berlin took responsibility for the teenagers’ insurance.
Moody and Joyce are now 14, so they are permitted to compete during the season’s final month. Hocevar will turn 14 in January.
“It is definitely something we are going evaluate during the offseason,” Bursley said. “We are definitely going to have major conversations with NASCAR because NASCAR has it embedded in these kids’ heads that they need to be in the Truck Series by the age of 16. But yet, they don’t allow them to drive a car at their home track until they are 14. How do they expect these kids to get any experience?
“It is just an unfortunate thing, and it’s just not what we are about. The kid was able to prove himself, and we have had our insurance company back us for years with these kids. We are definitely going to have to look at it moving forward.”
Hocevar was sixth in Berlin’s Super Late Model class prior to Saturday night’s races, and he’s sixth in the s Outlaw Late Model division. It is believed that Hocevar’s win on July 16 enabled him to become the youngest feature winner in Berlin’s 66-year history.
“Even before we became NASCAR sanctioned here, we had that discussion with NASCAR Home Tracks because we had three drivers who were all under the age of 14, and they said it wasn’t a problem as long as we carried a separate insurance policy on the kids,” Bursley said. “But what sparked it was Carson’s win a couple of weeks ago. It kind of went national, and it went up the ladder and raised red flags to those guys and they pulled the plug on them this week. We tried really, really hard to work with them.
“If we would have known that, who knows if we would have agreed to become NASCAR sanctioned. It’s unfortunate. The kid proved himself week in and week out. He did nothing wrong. We weren’t trying to hide anything.”