JOLIET, Ill. — Audio and story by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Chris Seelman photo — It’s taken a lot of hard work and perseverance through a lot of on-track struggles, but 21-year-old Joey Gase will finally accomplish a lifelong dream on Sunday afternoon.
Gase, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut for Go FAS Racing during Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway — the closest track to Gase’s hometown that the Cup Series races on — and says the emotion is high leading into his first appearance on NASCAR’s biggest stage.
“I’m really excited that Archie and the team is giving me the opportunity; it’s the closest track to us besides Iowa (which the NASCAR Nationwide Series competes at twice a year) and hopefully the Cup Series will have a race there in the years to come, but it was really a last-minute deal,” Gase explained to Race Chaser Online during Labor Day weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I found out pretty suddenly that we would be doing it, and it’s taken us just trying to prepare for it while at the same time trying to focus on the Nationwide side as well because we’ve made so many improvements to that program this year.”
Go FAS Racing, despite somewhat struggling for results and having a myriad of drivers in their No. 32 Ford over the course of the Cup Series’ season, announced earlier this week that they had secured sponsorship for Gase’s debut start this weekend, from Zimmer’s Forever Hip Campaign. Gase said after the announcement that having a primary sponsor allows him to breathe a little easier.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders and it makes everything go just that much smoother, knowing that part of it is taken care of,” Gase said. “I am excited we have so many great sponsors teaming up with us and that I can help promote Zimmer’s commitment to helping those make a comeback from joint pain.”
Gase has competed in the Nationwide Series full-time in 2014 for underfunded Jimmy Means Racing, qualifying for every race this season and finishing a career-best eleventh at Talladega Superspeedway in May, a vast improvement from his 2013 season where he DNQ-ed for eight events.
“We had a solid finish at Iowa (24th) but that run at Talladega was amazing for our small team. When you look at it, we spend across the whole year what the top teams spend in two or three races, so being able to do what we did — get my career-best finish and score the team’s best finish in the Nationwide Series — it was really special and a great experience for all of us.”
Gase is currently ranked a career-high 20th in the Nationwide points standings in the midst of his first complete season at NASCAR’s national level. The Iowa native says he has learned a lot in 2014 just by being in the car on a more consistent basis.
“Just being able to be in the car every week and race, and not do a start-and-park, you learn a lot being able to run the whole race,” Gase explained. “I’ve picked up different lines to run and how the car feels on a run and different ways to adjust it and even how the track changes over the course of a long run. The biggest thing for me though, has been being able to go to every track — and now when I go back to a track being comfortable almost right away instead of waiting to get used to the track, that makes a big difference and it’s helped me a lot this year.”
With track time being a commodity, this weekend’s opportunity to compete in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events will provide a continued confidence boost to the young driver in his quest to find a place among NASCAR’s thriving next generation.
But, despite being in the most consistent season he’s had to date and having the momentum of the upcoming Sprint Cup debut on his side, Gase is unsure what his future holds beyond the end of the 2014 season.
“I’m not quite sure what I’ll be doing in 2015 just yet,” Gase admitted, “but I’ll be on the track somewhere for sure. We don’t know where for sure yet; we’re still trying to work out the sponsorship side of things, but you’ll see us somewhere, you can count on that.”
In the meantime, Gase’s goal is simple: Enjoy the moment, because after four long years of work, he’s finally climbed to that final rung of the ladder.
“It’s a dream come true, it really is,” Gase smiled. “To think that I get to make my first Cup start and that I have so many friends and family coming to support us this weekend at Chicagoland, it’s amazing. I hope it’s only the beginning.”
Listen in to Managing Editor Jacob Seelman’s complete interview with Joey Gase during practice day at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend: