Auto Racing

Joey Gase honors organ donors at Be a Hero 30 at Hawkeye Downs

(FILE PHOTO) Joey Gase (left) talks to his father Bob about the setup of his car in the pits at Hawkeye Downs Speedway i
(FILE PHOTO) Joey Gase (left) talks to his father Bob about the setup of his car in the pits at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, June 21, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Many people around Eastern Iowa know that Joey Gase’s mother died of a brain aneurysm when he was 18 years old, with her donated organs helping 66 others after her death.

Friday night at Hawkeye Downs, Gase honored another donor, Chris Lewis of Cedar Rapids. Lewis died in a bicycle accident two years ago and donated his organs. Gase honored this decision by putting Lewis’ photo and his family's handprints on his Sports Mod that he drove during the weekly races that accompanied the yearly Iowa Donor Network pledge drive at the 27-year-old’s home track.

“It’s just great,” said Lewis’ father Dan, who was on hand along with his son’s heart recipient, Mike Meredith. “I think the world of Joey and it’s just a wonderful thing. Passing on life and helping people live.”

The second annual “Be A Hero 30” presented by Iowa Donor Network Sport Mod Race featured Gase in a field of racers vying for a $1,000 final prize.

Gase is in his first full-time season driving in the NASCAR Xfinity series and never considered canceling this important event even though he raced Thursday night at Kansas, finishing 29th in the 40-car field.

“We’ve had a little bit of an up and down year,” Gase said. “but anytime we can get in the top 30, that’s a good night.”

While traveling the country racing, it’s not uncommon for Gase to have to explain where he’s from.

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“I tell people there is a lot more here than just corn,” Gase joked. “A lot of people may not know how big racing is in Iowa, but it’s cool to see how many Iowa racers have made it toward the top.”

Even though drivers like Gase and Landon Cassill have “made it toward the top,” many of them come back to their communities regularly.

“This is so important to me for a bunch of reasons,” Gase said. “This is where I grew up racing, this is where I watched my dad race ever since I can remember. I just love coming back here where it all started.”

As for the health of local racing, Gase believes it’s strong.

“There is great racing out here every Friday and with the new ownership they’re really doing everything they can to step up the concessions and the facility. The car counts are building and it’s awesome to see that.”

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