CEDAR RAPIDS - The Cedar Rapids Titans and Sioux Falls Storm have met in the conference title game in each of the past four seasons.
If the Titans have any hope to make it five, they will need to dig out of an ever-increasing hole.
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NEWTON — Joey Gase has been talking about goals and earning them for a few years now.
The Cedar Rapids native and NASCAR Xfinity Series driver’s story hasn’t changed a ton in that time. Since he joined Jimmy Means Racing and his relationship with Donate Life — and most specifically Iowa Donor Network — grew as strong as it has, he’s chased the two dreams that have been written and talked about by various media outlets: a racing career and expanded knowledge about organ donation.
He’s hustled for sponsors and competed in underfunded equipment, working right alongside his car owner Jimmy Means.
Lately, more than just talking about goals and having his back story be the most prominent thing to talk about, Gase has earned more in the last few months. With six top-25 finishes in his last nine races, Gase has matched his total of top-25s he had all last season.
It may not jump out on paper as stellar results, but for a team that races most races on used tires and rebuilds its parts, pieces and cars instead of just replacing them, it’s a major step forward.
“I think it’s a couple different things. We definitely improved on, this year as compared to years past, is maintenance. Our cars are holding up every race, and knock on wood that keeps happening,” Gase said. “But that’s a big part of it. We’re running better, too. Hopefully we keep going the right direction. Another big thing is we’ve had pretty good pitstops, except for Iowa. Our stops have been better and that’s huge too.
“I’d say my goals have stayed the same. Just try to get as many top 25s and top 20s as we can, and top 30 in owner points and top 20 in driver points. I think we can maybe knock up the owner points, but the driver points still is a good goal.”
This season marks Gase’s third full-time season in the Xfinity Series, and fifth in which he’s run the majority of NXS races. He currently sits 22nd in driver points, and to his point about maintenance, has been running at the finish in all but three races, an improvement over the last two seasons.
By now, the NASCAR garage has heard his message a few times, but different ventures still get him in the limelight. Most recently, at New Hampshire, Gase had the Lisa Colagrassi Foundation on the car to promote awareness for brain aneurysms — the condition that killed Gase’s mom Mary.
Because of that connection, NBCSN highlighted and interviewed Gase in practice, qualifying and pre-race coverage — a substantial increase in TV exposure. Coupled with those improved results, it all goes a long way when he’s on the phone or in an office courting a new sponsor.
“That was really cool of NBC to do that. I’ve never gotten so much publicity before, I don’t think. It was really cool to get that and raise awareness, and also for everyone on the hood and all their families,” Gase said. “(Publicity) definitely doesn’t make it harder. … It’s always tough (getting sponsors) no matter what, but it definitely helps being able to show all the publicity you do get for your partners and sponsors, and show how big of a difference it makes. If you go to NASCAR and NBC’s Facebook page and show how many views and likes it has, that helps.”
Gase and Jimmy Means Racing come back to his home track for Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, where he was 25th in the American Ethanol 250 — part of a four-race streak in the top 25.
They bring with them the same car, and hopefully, Gase said, with better pit stops, they can find a top 20, like he thought was possible in June. Work in the shop — that he’s had to help with, since his team is “short a few guys right now” has put them in position to do that.
His expectations are higher now, and he’s earned that.
“We (brought) the exact same car and last time we raced that car was there. We’ve had to steal some parts off it to put on other cars, like we always do, but hopefully the guys will put everything back the way it was or improve on it,” Gase said. “We’re going to try a couple things to improve on it. We’re in a time crunch and short a couple guys right now, and everything right now is week after week after week, so we can’t get caught up on anything. But I think we’ll do it.”
The U.S. Cellular 250 is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen on NBCSN.
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