Numbers are an important part of most sports stories.
Completion percentage, batting average, 3-point accuracy can be key elements when telling a story. Sometimes it’s why we tell those stories.
But numbers also can get in the way of a good story.
Joey Gase, one of two Cedar Rapids drivers trying to make it in stock car racing’s biggest circuit, has modest statistics — at best. For instance, in 240 Xfinity races — NASCAR’s minor league — he has three top-10 finishes over nine years. In 41 career Cup races, his average finish is 33.9.
But Gase’s story isn’t about numbers.
Entering his 10th season racing in NASCAR’s top two circuits — he wasn’t full-time in Xfinity until 2014 — Gase is in a very good place. You might say he’s on top of the world.
His upcoming racing career is part of the reason. He recently signed a deal with Rick Ware Racing that will mean his first full-time ride in the NASCAR Cup Series. That’s 36 races at the top level. Last year, he drove in 11 of the 36 races.
“My goal has always been to be full-time in the Cup series,” he said over the weekend. “That dream is going to come true this year.”
But that is only part of why 2020 is looking so bright.
“I am excited to have Joey Gase join the Rick Ware Racing family in 2020. Joey and his family are great people, whose values align perfectly with RWR,” team owner Rick Ware said in a release when the deal was announced.
They key words in that statement are “family.” The biggest part of Gase’s story is — and always has been — family.
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Gase’s own family grew last month, too, with the birth of twin sons — Carson and Jace. He and his wife Caitlin celebrated their one-year anniversary in December, then a short time later the birth of their sons.
Family also is his dad, Bob, who Joey finally raced against last year at Hawkeye Downs, another dream-come-true moment. And, of course, there is his late mother, Mary Jo, who died of a brain aneurysm in 2011. He keeps her memory alive with his Donate Life program.
“I am very fortunate to have so many great, loyal partners with me and they are all passionate about raising awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation and honoring donor heroes, like my mom, which is something that is very important to my family and I,” Gase said in the same release.
That is the real story of Joey Gase. It’s not elusive Cup wins or Top 10 finishes. It’s about living his dream, doing something he remains passionate about and providing “food to put on the table” for his wife and sons.
Getting the deal with RWR is a big step in that direction.
“It’s a smaller team, but it’s growing quickly,” Gase said. “It’s definitely a step up from where I was last year.”
The competition will be a big step up, too, something Gase always has been realistic about. Sure, he’d love to win a race or be a consistent top tier finisher, but success in the Cup series is about driving for one the elite teams with the best equipment. It’s about money.
“We’ll hopefully be in the top 25 as much as possible,” Gase said. “Hopefully put our team on the map.”
The best part is he’ll have two new fans at the track this season, which starts in about a month in Daytona, Fla.
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Gase, who will turn 27 at the season-opening race, has been in Iowa the last month. The boys were born at Mercy Medical Center, five weeks premature. They’ve been home about a week.
He, Caitlin and the twins will leave in a week for their home in Charlotte, N.C., then it’s off to Daytona.
The short offseason can always be stressful for drivers like Gase. Securing a ride, finding new sponsors, planning a season. This December was stressful with all that, but also remarkable for the Gases.
Carson and Jace have and will continue to change his life. But his desire to get behind the wheel will not change. He knows it’s a dangerous occupation, but “you don’t think about what could happen.
“I’ve always been very motivated” to succeed, he said. “Now I’m a little more motivated.
“It’s just exciting to be able to have them at the track.”
And that’s really what it’s all about.
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