Auto Racing

Engine issues spoil Joey Gase's homecoming at Iowa Speedway

Cedar Rapids native finishes 33rd at CircuitCity.com 250 in NASCAR Xfinity Series

NEWTON — Joey Gase went into Sunday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series CircuitCity.com 250 race hoping to accomplish a lifelong dream — win at Iowa Speedway — with at least 50 or 60 family members and friends around him on a beautiful 76-degree day.

Then as the Cedar Rapids native rounded the fourth turn of the 47th lap, he experienced a quick sequence of events that any racer would dread.

His engine blew out, spraying oil “everywhere,” causing Gase to spin out, sending his No. 35 car straight into the wall and ending his day. He finished in 33rd place.

His aspirations to be in the Casey’s General Store Victory Lane in the infield of Iowa Speedway will have to wait at least another month.

“It’s always horrible, but especially here at Iowa, at your home track,” Gase said. “It’s definitely a frustrating weekend to say the least.”

All the friends and family make the disappointment more agonizing for the person who spends spare time raising awareness for organ donation after his mother’s death.

“Honestly I’d say it’s worse (when you have friends and family around),” Gase said. “Because you’re trying to do a good job for them.”

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Many of his sponsors, including Iowa Donor Network, are from the Hawkeye State, adding to the frustration.

It’s the third consecutive race where mechanical issues derailed his performance, which has been a growing source of frustration for the 26-year-old driver.

“I never want to talk bad about my team or anything like that,” Gase said. “But this is the third week in a row for No. 35 that my teammates have been having issues. It’s frustrating for sure.”

It looked like Sunday was going to finally be his chance to have a race free of engine shortfalls until his 47th lap offered a dose of reality.

“They keep thinking they found the problem, and apparently they don’t,” Gase said. Gase was not the only one in this position Sunday afternoon. Fourteen of the 38 competitors did not cross the finish line.

Christopher Bell, 24, won the race after leading for 186 laps, narrowly defeating Cole Custer.

"My car was just so fast," Bell said. "We just had really good pit stops (and) really good adjustments."

Before the engine malfunction, Gase gradually ascended the leaderboard from his pole position of 30th to the low 20s.

It would’ve been a step forward for Gase, who has been battling a tough start to his 2019 season. His average finish dropped from 22.15 in 2018 to 27.46 in 2019 entering Sunday’s action.

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Fortunately for Gase, his team will have a chance for redemption next month at Iowa Speedway in the U.S. Cellular 250 on July 27.

“Hopefully here when we come back to Iowa in July it’ll be a lot better one for us,” Gase said. “Last year both Iowa (races) were really good to us.”

l Comments: john.steppe@thegazette.com

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