REPORT: Kaden Honeycutt crawls to best career Truck Series finish at Kansas 

May 5, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Still fresh to the NASCAR scene, Kaden Honeycutt has yet to get a plethora of opportunities. But he’s finally found a stable situation with Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series.

In a schedule that is currently set to be 11 truck races throughout the 2024 season, Honeycutt notched his first career top-five finish in a national series race with a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night.

Honeycutt entered the weekend with a ninth-place average finish in three prior starts this season. He kicked off the season with a sixth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway before returning to his short track core, earning a 12th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway and a ninth-place outing at Martinsville Speedway.

Kansas was the first time visiting a true intermediate track with one of the top teams in the series. His preparation work backed that up, knowing that the No. 45 team’s crew chief, Phil Gould, would be bringing a hot rod to the track.

“This was probably the most studied track that I’ve had on my schedule,” Honeycutt said. “I’ve struggled here the last couple of years, just not knowing what to do. Now with all our partners at Chevrolet that have helped us on sim and for me to get better and know what to do when I show up, it’s so helpful to have all the backing that we have from Chevrolet.”

Throughout Saturday, Honeycutt continued to improve as he laid more laps down at Kansas. The No. 45 Chevrolet was middle-of-the-pack in practice and qualified in a dissatisfying 23rd place. As soon as the green flag waved, however, he charged through the field and finished fifth in the opening stage.

During the second stage, Honeycutt continued to impress and even contended for the race lead early in the stage. He bettered his position to fourth with the halfway point looming.

When the final stage went green, Honeycutt shined. He battled series points leader Corey Heim fearlessly for the lead until a cycle of green-flag pit stops began. Heim pitted one lap before Honeycutt, who had made just one green-flag pit stop in his career prior to Kansas. He keyed up his veteran spotter TJ Bell on the radio, wanting to know what his marker was for getting on to pit road.

It wasn’t perfect, but Honeycutt managed the deficit, losing just two spots.

“That was my second green-flag stop ever,” he said. “My first one was here in the playoffs. TJ did an amazing job spotting for me, telling me where my mark was and not speeding on pit road. I didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes and was able to get in and out and still salvage a top five.”

Over the final 40 laps, Honeycutt maintained his track position and took the checkered flag in fourth. It was his best career finish in 24 truck starts – and the best finish for Niece Motorsports through the first half of the regular season.

“Whenever you run up front and contend for a win like that, you want to finish the job off,” Honeycutt stated. “Just needed to be better myself on pit road and being able to navigate the air better, attack the corner differently when I was racing [Heim] to try to take the lead from him.

“It’s still an amazing night for my guys. Another career-best finish for myself. I wanted to win, right? Phil is fantastic at this race track and my guys are as well. We will come back to Charlotte and be better, clean up my mistakes and try to win this year. You’ve got to crawl before you walk, and that’s the next goal.”

Aside from his partial schedule with Niece, Honeycutt is competing in the zMAX CARS Tour in both a late model stock and a pro late model, in addition to competing in dirt late models throughout the 2024 season. He’s also a highly-touted simulator competitor and qualified for the NASCAR iRacing Road to Pro Series, which led to a move to JR Motorsports in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series last season.

Honeycutt is trying to follow in Carson Kvapil’s footsteps, who nearly missed out on winning his first Xfinity Series race last weekend at Dover Motor Speedway. While a fourth-place effort at Kansas stung, Honeycutt can also see the bigger picture.

“That we’re hard-nosed, grassroots racers,” Honeycutt added. “This is what we want to do; this is what we fight for every day of our lives. Every opportunity that I have and Carson has, we try to maximize it the best we can. That’s why I’m a little hard on myself for not winning, but you have to remember you have to take steps at a time in order to get to the win and run up front.

“Being my first time ever even running in the top five in that scenario, I felt like I did a good job.”

Honeycutt won’t return to the Truck Series until late this month at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Between now and then, he will compete at North Wilkesboro Speedway the week of the NASCAR All-Star Race in the pro late model race and late model stock events.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Corey Heim took control of Saturday night’s Heart of America 200 in the final stage and charged to his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory of the season, despite fighting a loose handling condition in the closing stages.

Heim took the lead from Nick Sanchez on Lap 70 of 134 at Kansas Speedway and stayed out front the rest of the way, gaining time through a cycle of green-flag pit stops in the middle of the final stage.

Runner-up Zane Smith, the 2022 Truck Series champion running a part-time Truck Series schedule this season, closed on Heim over the final 10 laps but was still 1.088 seconds behind when Heim crossed the start/finish line.

The victory was Heim’s first at Kansas and the seventh of his career. The driver of the No. 11 Tricon Garage Toyota claimed his first victory of the season on March 23 at the Circuit of The Americas road course in Austin, Texas.

“I can’t say enough about these guys at Tricon Garage, man,” said Heim, who has finished in the top 10 in all eight Truck Series races this season. “Top to bottom, we executed so well today with the pit crew, everyone back at the shop…

“What a truck! It was free for most of the race, so I can’t say it was easy. Even with the balance I had, the truck had so much potential to get better. I’m kind of out of breath now-it was a handful those last 30 laps.”

Despite his second-place finish, Smith was disappointed with the result. After winning the second stage, Smith lost seven positions, thanks to a slow stop under caution on pit road and couldn’t catch Heim to challenge for the win.

On Lap 104, following a cycle of green-flag pit stops, Smith trailed Heim by 3.743 seconds and cut all but roughly one second off that margin before the finish.

“You can’t lose (seven) spots on pit road,” said Smith, who was making his fourth start of the season in the No. 91 McAnally-Hilgemann Chevrolet. “That one got away there.”

Christian Eckes finished third, followed by Kaden Honeycutt, whose fourth-place run was a career-best.

Brett Moffitt, the 2018 Truck Series champion, came home fifth in his first start of the season. Sanchez was sixth after starting from the rear of the field, due to his No. 2 Chevrolet failing pre-race inspection three times.

Tanner Gray, Dean Thompson, Daniel Dye and Matt Crafton completed the top 10.

Heim holds the series lead by seven points over Eckes.