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Eric Estepp’s Out of the Crowd: Hamlin’s Contract, Hocevar’s Future Prospects, and More

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Eric Estepp

Eric Estepp

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Hey y’all, Eric here! I get THOUSANDS of comments every week underneath YouTube episodes of Out of the Groove. I wanted to pluck several comments from out of the crowd and respond to them directly here on The Daily Downforce!

bradleymezei8810 on YouTube

Hamlin staying with Gibbs is not surprising but FedEx seemingly “quiet quitting” would be. It’d be interesting to see who Hamlin’s new primary will be, if it comes to that.

FedEx has noticeably scaled back its support this season. By my count, they have served as the primary scheme in only 9 of 29 possible races. That being said, Denny Hamlin recently said that he and FedEx would continue their partnership in 2024 regardless of where he signed. It’s also worth noting that Joe Gibbs Racing used the phrase “signed, sealed, and delivered” in their official X post announcing Hamlin’s new contract, referencing Hamlin and FedEx’s long-time partnership.

FedEx will almost certainly remain with Denny and JGR in 2024, but if they continue to scale back their support, I expect SportClips, Interstate Batteries, and perhaps even Mavis Tire to expand their relationship. 

vampshonour on YouTube

Carson Hocevar seems to have some genuine raw talent. As long as he continues to drive cleanly, no doubt he’ll be a fantastic driver in the future.

I am very high on Carson Hocevar’s potential. I think he opened a ton of eyes at Darlington this past weekend. In only his second Cup Series start ever, he managed to qualify 15th in a car that has an average starting position of 28th this season. He then ran inside the top 20 all day long in arguably the most challenging race on the NASCAR schedule. He finished 17th, which is the second-best finish for the No. 42 car this entire season! 

It’s only one race, and granted it’s at a track that Legacy Motor Club (and previously Petty GMS) have run well at, but Carson Hocevar deserves a ton of credit for his performance. 

He is rumored to be joining Spire Motorsports in the Cup Series next season, but I’ve also heard he could remain in Trucks for another year. I wonder if Carson is looking at the lack of performance from the No. 77 car the past two seasons, and is questioning if that is the right move to make. We saw Noah Gragson jump into a lousy car and struggle mightily this year. Carson Hocevar may be worried about making the same mistake. 

Spire Motorsports’ new partnership with Gainbridge has me optimistic about their future. Corey LaJoie has fallen back to Earth in the second half of this season (24.3 average finish the past nine races), but he is still running better than he did last year. I think getting experience in the Next Gen car is invaluable. If I were in Carson Hocevar’s shoes I would be excited about the chance to go Cup Series racing next year, even if the No. 77 is not an elite ride. 

thomasredden4263 on YouTube

Bubba just has to start confident and not be so hard on himself, he did an amazing job of keeping his head down and grinding to finish just outside the top 5. I’m so happy to see him perform so well and I have full confidence he will get out of this round. Go get ‘em bw!!

Bubba Wallace wears his emotions on his sleeve. As a viewer and fan, I love that! He’s human! He’s relatable! But emotion can also work against professional athletes in the biggest moments. One knock against Bubba Wallace the past few years is that he’s not graceful under pressure. 

To his credit, Bubba Wallace has bucked that narrative multiple times this season. 

I remember when Bubba Wallace was confronted by Aric Almirola during the Coca-Cola 600. Aric shoved Bubba during the mid-race red flag! Rather than let that incident distract him, Bubba Wallace was able to rally in the second half of that race to finish inside the top 5. At Daytona a couple of weeks ago, with all eyes on him, Bubba Wallace ran a clean, smart race and qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs. At Darlington, as you mentioned, Wallace overcame an early mistake to score a top 10 finish! Great resiliency. 

Bubba let his emotions get the better of him at Las Vegas last fall in spectacular fashion. That was a low, low moment for him. Since then, however, Wallace has carried himself well and has been more consistent on the race track than ever before. The pressure is not going away. He will be one of the favorites this weekend at Kansas Speedway. However, for the first time ever, I’m confident Bubba Wallace won’t let the pressure or his emotions get the best of him.

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Eric Estepp

Eric Estepp

Host of the Out of the Groove YouTube Channel
All Posts