CEDAR RAPIDS — This NASCAR offseason has been one of the strangest and definitely the most stressful offseason Cedar Rapids native Joey Gase has experienced since he’s been part of the sport.
Uncertainty after parting ways with Jimmy Means Racing at the end of last year gave way to relief and happiness Friday, when it was officially announced he’s teaming up with Go Green Racing to drive the No. 35 car in the Xfinity Series for a full schedule in 2018. Go Green, owned by Archie St. Hilaire, is a sister team to Go Fas Racing, which fields the No. 32 Ford for Matt DiBenedetto in the Monster Energy Cup Series, the team for whom Gase made his first Cup and Xfinity Series starts.
With sponsorship lined up already with Sparks Energy and once again Donate Life, a guarantee for a full-time ride and the potential for upward movement puts Gase on stable ground he wasn’t sure he’d have.
“I’ve been stressing out like no other this offseason, and at the end of the season last year just because I didn’t have anything locked in yet, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Gase said. “So to finally be able to get something locked in is a huge stress relief.
“I had no idea what I was going to be doing for sure. We were talking with different Cup teams and stuff like that, and there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on this offseason in this sport that doesn’t normally happen. … I think this is the right thing to do, and this will be the best thing for me.”
Gase has a career average finish of 28.6 in four full seasons and two partial Xfinity Series seasons with Go Green and Jimmy Means Racing.
He made his NXS debut with Go Green Racing in 2011 at Iowa Speedway, his first Cup start with Go Fas Racing in 2014 at Chicagoland Speedway and has worked with St. Hilaire at least once every season since, except for 2017, when DiBenedetto took over the Cup ride full time. Gase’s goal was a full-time Cup series ride for this season, but the offseason uncertainty and logic of working with Go Green, given their history, made it sensible.
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The Cup and Xfinity sides will work in tandem, but not out of the same shop, Gase said, but he added that the proximity of those shops means it should be productive.
While Gase’s move is not a meteoric leap from the lowest end to the top of the financial spectrum in NASCAR, Gase believes it will be a tangible step upward — evidenced in simplest terms by having sticker tires for each pit stop. That’s not something Gase has been able to say before in his Xfinity experience, where he’s almost always had to have used tires put on his cars during previous races with Means.
That’s one small example, but Gase believes this pairing should put him and his new team on the level of teams like Ryan Sieg’s and Jeremy Clements, two underfunded racers who challenge for top 15 and top 10 finishes — Clements getting a win at Road America last season.
“I thought this opportunity Archie is giving me is going to be a really good one,” Gase said. “Everything is a step up financially, with sponsorships, for sure, and then equipment-wise and all that stuff. I can’t say exactly what we’re getting for cars and motors quite yet, but it’s going to be a step in the right direction. Our goal is to hopefully make the playoffs. I know it’s a big goal, but that’s what we think we can accomplish, or be right there at it.”
Those steps down the road, though are what makes this move most attractive for Gase.
With Go Fas Racing’s improvement with DiBenedetto behind the wheel and the increase in funding that accompanied him and his sponsors, Gase can envision that effect trickling down. Like so many others, Gase wants to be in the Cup series, and said “I’m pretty confident it will happen again,” for him to race in a handful of Cup races this year. He ran nine races in the Cup series last year, between BK Racing and Premium Motorsports.
Given the fluctuating nature of the charters at the Cup level, Gase said there’s potential for a second charter with St. Hilaire, should sponsorship and other funding work out.
“I think I’ll be able to compete the best I have at this level,” Gase said. “It’s another way to get me in the Cup series full time, maybe next year, and maybe take this whole Xfinity team and move it into a Cup team.
“It’s something we can grow and hopefully form into something really good. We saw how big of an improvement Go Fas was able to make last year in the Cup series. … That’s kind of the hope (a second charter) and plan to do that.”
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