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For years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been influential at JR Motorsports in helping drivers hone their racing craft in preparation for that final step up to the NASCAR Cup Series. He knows what it takes to succeed. On the flip side, he also understands what not to do.

On Sunday at Martinsville, the NBC broadcaster witnessed a case of the latter with Truck Series regular Carson Hocevar making an egregiously aggressive move in the final stage of the Cup race. Junior didn’t hesitate to call out the young driver for his actions. He said that behavior won’t be tolerated next year when he moves up to race with the big boys.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. warns Carson Hocevar about ‘hard lessons’

Carson Hocevar successfully battled all season in the Truck Series and will compete for a title this coming weekend in Phoenix. He also took advantage of an opportunity to race multiple times throughout the year as a substitute in the Cup Series for both Spire Motorsports and Legacy Motor Club. He’s done well, with four top-20s in eight races, a best of 11th at Bristol. 

However, his latest race with the top drivers in NASCAR won’t be remembered for the result, 31st, as it will be for what happened in the final stage. Dale Earnhardt Jr. described the action on the NBC broadcast. 

“Ty Gibbs maybe moves him out of the way right here,” Earnhardt said, referring to Gibbs making contact with the No. 42 car driven by Hocevar. “Pretty simple. Martinsville racing. 

“Now we’re going to go down into Turn 1. Hocevar is going to go into the back and watch this. I’m a hook you,” Junior described as the driver made a quick turn to the right into the left rear of the No. 54 car, which then went for a spin. 

“And we know that Hocevar has a habit of doing that,” Earnhardt continued. “I think he’s trying to work on it, but when you come to the Cup Series and do that, you’re going to get some hard lessons from these guys. Because there’s not a lot of people going to stand up to you in the Truck Series, or Xfinity Series, but this Cup Series is a little bit different.”

Hocevar has a habit of hooking drivers

Earnhardt mentioned Hocevar’s past history of bad behavior. Flashback to July 2022 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. 

Truck Series driver Colby Howard was running inside the top 10, looking to record his best finish of the year. With 10 laps to go, he battled for seventh with Hocevar and moved the No. 42 out of the way. Moments later, the Michigan native was unhappy and responded, right-rearing the No. 91 and sending him into the Turn 1 wall. 

This year, Hocevar was at it again, and ironically enough, it happened in April at Martinsville. In that race, he attempted to hook Taylor Gray but failed, instead spinning his own truck. However, this time, it was different because NASCAR penalized him and held him for two laps.

Cup Series hooks have resulted in suspensions

To his credit, Hocevar had cleaned up his racing since that first incident at The Paperclip in the spring. As Earnhardt said, the drivers in the Cup Series, where the 20-year-old will race full-time in 2024 with Spire Motorsports, won’t tolerate such behavior. 

Suppose Hocevar tries that move again in 2024. In that case, he can expect one of two reactions. 1) The driver(s) involved will address it with him on track or sometime after, and/or 2) NASCAR will penalize him as it did with Chase Elliott earlier this year after he hooked Denny Hamlin at Charlotte and Bubba Wallace last year after he did the same with Kyle Larson at Las Vegas. Both received one-race suspensions.

Translation: Hocevar would be best served to learn and, more importantly, keep a low profile in 2024. Stay clean as much as possible. Avoid upsetting other drivers. That will make his transition a lot smoother and give him a better chance of racing long-term in the Cup Series.

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