AUDIO/FEATURE: Armed with opportunity, Joey Gase looks to make a difference on and off-track in 2014

Jacob Seelman Audio, Featured, Midwest, NASCAR, Other Late Models, Stock Cars 1 Comment

January 21, 2013 — Audio and story by Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Ed Siems photo — CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Few drivers on the track have the passion for going fast that 20-year-old Joey Gase does.

Even fewer have the same passion for making a difference.

But that passion is what has characterized the young Iowan both on and off the race track over the course of his budding career. Gase will embark in 2014 on his third full season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, returning to drive the No. 52 entry for veteran team owner Jimmy Means.

“I’m excited to be back with Jimmy Means for a second year in 2014,” Gase expressed in an interview with Race Chaser Online. “The goal for the season is to finish in the top 30 in owner points and top 20 in driver points, but I think if we can get things to fall our way, we can score a few top-20s and maybe even a top-15 finish by the end of the year. I want to help build this team over the course of the year.”

Gase began his racing career at the short track level and impressed a lot of people at a very young age. The Iowan started racing at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in the track’s junior classes in 2001 as the beginning of his rise through the ranks in the Midwest. He won the track Modified-B championship at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in 2007, becoming the youngest driver in track history to accomplish the feat.

Gase repeated the youngest-ever feat in 2009, becoming the youngest driver in history to win the track Late Model championship at his home track of Hawkeye Downs Speedway.

“We had a lot of success in Iowa when we ran the short tracks, and really all along the Midwest. It’s fun for me to look back on and really those couple years were a ton of fun for me personally behind the wheel.”

After running a partial American Speed Association (ASA) schedule in 2008, in addition to select ARCA Racing Series, USAR Pro Cup Series, and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts in 2010 and 2011, Gase made the jump to the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Iowa Speedway in August 2011 for Go Green Racing, finishing a respectable 20th and out-pacing veteran drivers including Sam Hornish, Justin Allgaier and Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne.

Gase ran the NNS schedule for Go Green in 2012 before hooking up with Jimmy Means in the winter of 2013 to race the NASCAR Nationwide Series season. The duo of Means and Gase raced 18 times in 2013, posting the team’s two best finishes of the season at Gase’s home track, Iowa Speedway.

“It was a decent year this year for me and for our team,” Gase said of the 2013 campaign. “There’s still some areas that we know we need to improve in, but I’m very optimistic that we can make those changes for 2014 and improve on our performance, and I do think we’ll have a good shot to be one of the 30 locked-in cars (on owner points) all season.”

In addition to Gase’s bright outlook on his racing career, the young man is also an avid supporter of the Donate Life foundation for organ, eye and tissue donation. Joey has worked to educate people across the United States, and especially in the Midwest, on what it means to be an organ donor and how the decision can change the lives of people you may not even know.

Gase’s mother, Mary Jo, passed away in 2011 just after his 18th birthday, and he found out when handling the affairs with his family later on that she was registered as an organ donor.

“At the time, I truthfully didn’t know what it meant to be an organ donor; I just knew it was a yes or no question that they asked you when you went to the DMV to get your license,” Gase explained. “And then after we lost my mom, and I had to be the one to finalize a lot of the decisions (because he had just turned 18), it really opened my eyes to everything it really means, and just how you can really make a difference in someone’s life.”

That decision, as tough as it was for Joey, did make a difference in the life of one young man that Gase had the privilege of meeting at Iowa Speedway in August of 2012.

25-year-old Jordan Shaw, out of Omaha, Nebraska, received a kidney transplant from Mary Jo Gase that ultimately saved his life. Shaw was diagnosed with cancer at age 2, and the disease killed one of his kidneys immediately. He was cancer free by 6 years old, but ten years later he suffered problems due to car tissue in the other kidney, leading to the first kidney transplant. Problems arose and Shaw wound up on the transplant list again in 2007 before receiving the transplant in April of 2011.

Gase says that meeting changed his life and his outlook on everything he does.

“I’m really glad I was able to meet him,” said Gase. “I think it’s really helped us both (Gase and his sister) get past all that. Just to know that mom is still living out there in different ways. It changed how I think and now I want to encourage as many people as possible to look into the facts behind organ donation and to be informed because it does make a difference even if you never get to see it.”

Gase is one of the lucky ones who got to see the good that came from his family’s decision, and he takes that inspiration with him every time he hits the race track with Donate Life onboard.

“It’s always a reminder because of what they mean to me, and my family,” Gase explained. “They’ve been huge supporters and I’m glad to have an organization like Donate Life that does as much as they do back with us for 2014.”

Gase will now look ahead to Daytona Speedweeks in a little over two weeks time, where he looks to bring home a solid mark for Jimmy Means at the World Center of Racing after a productive Preseason Thunder test session.

“We ran well in the draft, and I’m personally happy it’s back to pack racing again, where it’s a little more in my hands as to what can and can’t happen in the draft.”

His expectations are realistic: a top-20 finish would be a great day. But in the draft, on the last lap?

“Anything can happen,” the Hawkeye smiled. “If we can find the right hole, who knows? A top ten or a win could be possible. It is Daytona, after all.”

 

Listen in to our full interview with Joey Gase, as we hear about his charity work and upcoming expectations for the 2014 season:

 

Comments 1

  1. my wife Leslie was the duel kidney pancreas transplant. Her latest donor was Garrett Brockway from Burlington. Hope to see you at Iowa Speedway this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.