Auto Racing

Cedar Rapids driver Joey Gase excited to be racing on 'home track'

NASCAR Xfinity race is Sunday in Newton

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and Cedar Rapids native Joey Gase speaks with a crew member during qualifying for the Iowa 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway in Newton last June. He’s hoping Sunday’s race, the CircuitCity.com 250 in Newton, will restart his season. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and Cedar Rapids native Joey Gase speaks with a crew member during qualifying for the Iowa 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway in Newton last June. He’s hoping Sunday’s race, the CircuitCity.com 250 in Newton, will restart his season. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Joey Gase was anxious to get behind the wheel of his No. 24 Toyota on Saturday at Iowa Speedway in Newton.

“Let’s get the weekend underway,” he said during a stop in Cedar Rapids on Thursday.

A 2011 graduate of Xavier High School, the 26-year-old Cedar Rapids driver is ready for a restart, if you will. This season, his seventh on the NASCAR circuit, has been a little frustrating.

“This year, honestly, has been a struggle for sure,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of small mechanical issues and stuff like that.

“In racing, or in any business or sport, you can do all the big things right, but if you do the big things right it doesn’t matter if you don’t do the small things right.”

Although he has started all 13 Xfinity Series races this season, he stands just 25th in points with zero laps led, zero top 10s and, of course, zero wins. He was 16th in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, but has a best of 21st since.

“The small things have been biting us,” he said.

He’s hoping a return to Iowa will change that. Gase figures it’s time to do something special on his “home track” and not just because he’ll have “tons of family and friends” in the stands.

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“I remember when I was a kid how excited I was that Rusty Wallace, who was my favorite driver, was building Iowa Speedway,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

His best finish in this race — now called the CircuitCity.com 250 presented by Tamron — was 18th in 2017. He was 17th in last year’s late-summer U.S. Cellular 250 on the same track.

Sunday’s race starts at 4:30 p.m. (FS1). Qualifying is at 1:05 p.m.

“I probably have more experience than anyone at that track,” said Gase, who started his racing career at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in 2001. “I’ve been racing there since I was 15 years old and I’ve been racing there twice a year ever since.”

Gase will extend his return home for another week and will race next Friday at Hawkeye Downs.

While he’s home, he‘ll visit family and friends — and work.

“Everybody thinks just being a racecar driver is you show up and drive,” he said. “There’s a lot more that goes into it.”

Because his MBM Motorsports team is among the smallest in NASCAR, Gase wears several hats. He said he’s his own PR person and spends a lot of time speaking with and seeking sponsors.

“Seven days a week, when I’m not in the racecar and if I’m not working one of the cars in the shop, I’m in the office working,” he said. “It’s definitely a full-time job.”

Gase doesn’t stick his nose into too much of the technical work on his car, but stays involved in most aspects.

“Obviously I don’t do everything on the car because I don’t have time and we have paid professionals to do that,” he said. “But being a smaller team, everybody has to do a little bit of everything.

“I’m pretty involved, more than probably most drivers.”

Which would make a successful return home even sweeter.

“We always want to do good in front of the home crowd,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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