Xfinity Series contender Noah Gragson will depart JR Motorsports at the end of the 2022 season to go to the Cup Series and Petty GMS Motorsports. JRM has not revealed his replacement, but there are multiple talented possibilities.
Carson Hocevar stoked some intrigue on social media after Petty GMS confirmed Gragson would join the team. He tweeted out an animated Gif of someone making a move in chess. The second-year Truck Series driver did not provide any more information, but there were immediate questions about his future opportunities.
Now, Hocevar could have simply been having fun. He is very active on social media, and he likes to make jokes about the motorsports world. However, he does provide an intriguing option as someone that could head to the No. 9 team and make positive strides.
There was another driver that tweeted his own cryptic message. Toyota Racing driver Drew Dollar tweeted out nine smiley face emojis, which were less subtle. Dollar made his Xfinity Series debut in 2022 while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, and he has also made some starts in the ARCA Menards Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
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Hocevar Has Made Strides in the Truck Series
Hocevar hasn’t reached Victory Lane in his two full-time Truck Series seasons, but he has reached the playoffs both times while driving the No. 42 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports. He has also put himself in a position to fight for the win at Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt), Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Darlington Raceway among others.
Along with the near-wins, Hocevar has also battled through a broken tibia while turning in the best statistical season of his career. He won the pole award for the first time, and he set new career-high marks for top-10 finishes (nine) and top-fives (six) before the playoffs began.
There are still some things that Hocevar can clean up as he continues to grow as a driver. He has acknowledged that he has tried too hard sometimes, which led to on-track incidents. Hocevar also let his anger get the best of him at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park when he intentionally turned into Colby Howard and spun him into the wall.
Hocevar Could Learn From a Top-Tier Crew Chief
If JRM opted to bring in Hocevar as Gragson’s replacement, the team could pair him with a top-tier crew chief that would help him grow as a driver. The Michigan native could join forces with Luke Lambert, who has guided multiple Cup Series and Xfinity Series drivers.
Lambert’s time in the Cup Series featured him working with such names as Jeff Burton, Daniel Hemric, and Ryan Newman at Richard Childress Racing. He guided this group to a combined 24 top-five finishes. He was also atop the pit box for Newman’s final Cup Series win — Phoenix in 2017.
Lambert finished out his time in the Cup Series with Chris Buescher and Newman at Roush Fenway Racing — now RFK Racing. He was only partnered with Newman for five races, but he guided Buescher’s team to 14 top-10s and two top-fives in two seasons.
Lambert has fewer races atop the pit box as an Xfinity Series crew chief, but he has considerable success. His first season in the series was in 2012 at Richard Childress Racing. He worked with Elliott Sadler, who won four times and finished second in the championship standings.
The 2022 season featured Lambert’s return to the Xfinity Series. He joined JR Motorsports and took over for the departed Dave Elenz. Lambert and Gragson hit the ground running with top-five finishes in the first four races, including a win at Phoenix. They have since won two more times.