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NEWTON — Joey Gase felt like he couldn’t find any luck at all on Saturday night in the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.
The Cedar Rapids native qualified 30th for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race — eventually won by Erik Jones — after no practice thanks to a blown engine. Then an oil leak was discovered post-qualifying, so Gase had to start 40th with only five laps on track the whole weekend. In the race itself, Gase was twice one spot out of the free pass position, keeping him from getting back on the lead lap.
Even with all that, his Jimmy Means Racing Chevy finished the race 24th, marking his seventh top-25 finish of the season. He said it was a sign of both his and the team’s improvements that a bad luck night could result in a finish that used to feel like a win.
“We had a good car, we just didn’t have any luck. We got that lap down early, and that sucked,” Gase said. “But oh well. The car is in one piece, and we had a really good car without any practice.
“A couple years ago, a top-25, we’d be celebrating like crazy. Now, we’re a little disappointed sometimes. I think that’s a good sign.”
Gase said earlier this week that he wanted to improve on his 25th-place finish in the June race at Iowa Speedway, and after Saturday night’s race, he felt like his team did that.
“I think we definitely did (improve),” Gase said. “Qualifying 30th with no practice, and the way we ran in the race, I think we improved a lot — especially with that last adjustment we made. We were better than all the guys we normally race against.
“I think Richmond, this can definitely help, maybe Phoenix — those two tracks, it will definitely help.”
A race like Saturday’s is equal parts gratifying and frustrating, as Gase mentioned.
But at the very least, he didn’t leave Newton nearly as upset with what could’ve been as he did last time around. Even through the exhaustion of dealing with a hard-fought race and late afternoon warm temperatures, Gase was upbeat.
“We did a really good job with the problems we had,” Gase said. “It was a weekend from hell, from the start, all the way through qualifying, and then in the race it started to turn around finally. It was good to have a good car, and hopefully we can start doing this every week and get back in the top 20 in points.”
MARKS ON BABY WATCH
There’s nothing like going to work with the chance for an emergency plane ride hanging over your head.
Such was the case Saturday for Chip Ganassi Racing driver Justin Marks, whose wife, Erin, is expecting their second child, new daughter Presley, any time. Marks and CGR had Corey Lajoie on standby all weekend in case Erin went into labor.
While it didn’t affect his mental preparation for the race, it certainly did logistically. He ultimately didn’t have to put the plan in motion, but it added a layer of stress to the weekend.
“I was able to hitch a ride here with Elliott Sadler, who was kind enough to make his plane available just in case we got the call at any minute,” Marks said. “It’s one of those deals where the due date fell where we needed to get a little bit lucky.
“As long as everything was ready at home and I could get home, I was able to put it out of my mind completely and do my job.”
Marks finished the U.S. Cellular 250 20th.
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