Auto Racing

Cedar Rapids native Joey Gase will never give up on NASCAR dream

Ogden column: Goal remains to beat, become the 'haves' of auto racing

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and Joey Gase of Cedar Rapids (left) speaks with a crew member during qualifying for the Iowa 250 at Iowa Speedway in Newton last June. Gase signed with a new team during the offseason and will race full-time on the Xfinity Series. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and Joey Gase of Cedar Rapids (left) speaks with a crew member during qualifying for the Iowa 250 at Iowa Speedway in Newton last June. Gase signed with a new team during the offseason and will race full-time on the Xfinity Series. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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What makes athletes tick?

What gets them up in the morning, what gets them to the gym, the field, the court or the racetrack?

Why would a 25-year-old from Cedar Rapids want to compete in NASCAR, quite possibly the biggest professional sports arena where the “haves” dwarf the “have-nots?”

If you’re not on one of the elite teams, with elite equipment and an elite crew — not to mention elite money — why even bother?

Why not give up?

“That’s never going to happen,” said Joey Gase, that 25-year-old driver from Cedar Rapids.

Gase doesn’t know why he loves racing cars so much. He just does.

And that’s OK. That’s good enough.

“It’s something I’ve always loved and am passionate about,” he said last week from his home in Charlotte, N.C. “I grew up with it.”

Gase’s father, Bob, raced at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids when Joey was young. At age 8, Joey started racing go-karts. By the time he was 14 he was racing modifieds at Hawkeye Downs.

“I’ve just always loved it,” Gase said.

Gase will make his 2019 debut at the mecca of stock car racing — Daytona, Fla.

He leaves Feb. 7, the day before garages open for the Daytona Speedweeks — and the day he turns 26.

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Maybe that’s why Gase will never give up, keep chasing his dream to be among the NASCAR “haves.”

Maybe he was born to do this.

“That’s always the goal,” he said of beating those top drivers from those top teams. “It’s just the competition side of it.”

Gase admitted things get frustrating at times, like this offseason when he didn’t know if he was going to have a car to drive.

He called it a “very stressful time ... most stressful offseason I’ve ever had.”

But he recently signed with MBM Motorsports, a team owned by former NASCAR driver Carl Long with cars in the Xfinity Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Gase will drive full-time in the Xfinity Series with his familiar 35 number. He’ll be No. 66 in a handful of Cup races, including the Feb. 17 Daytona 500.

“That’s our plan, to hopefully race our way into the 500,” Gase said.

Gase said Long called him and, after a two-hour conversation, offered him a seat.

“We found a home,” said Gase, who also married high school friend Caitlin Himmelsbach last month.

It is not unusual for the “have-nots” of NASCAR to sweat in the offseason. It’s not always about talent. It’s about getting the right break at the right time.

“Everybody thinks the drivers’ only job is to race the car,” said Gase, who now is trying to secure sponsorships to get him in even more Cup races. “Most of (the top drivers) had to stress about these things at some point in their careers.

“Sponsorship is something that makes the world go round in NASCAR.”

Now he just wants to get behind the wheel of a racecar and step on the gas.

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“I’m a racecar driver and that’s what I want to do — go out and race,” he said.

Sometimes the why is as simple as that. Maybe that frustration — and possibly moments of doubt — is something all athletes go through, whether they play football, basketball or race cars.

“The reason they are (on top) is because they never give up,” Gase said. “I don’t see any reason to give up.”

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

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