NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Joey Gase Focusing on Cup Series for 2018, No Animosity from Jimmy Means

On Thursday, Means Motorsports announced it was going in a different direction for 2018, after fielding a full-time ride for Joey Gase the past four seasons in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

Jimmy Means, owner of Means Motorsports, told Frontstretch that a meeting between the two sides took place more than two months ago, determining to go in this direction. However, there is no animosity from the car owner, as Gase is trying to make the jump to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“I can’t wait until January 1 to know that he’s not coming back,” Means said of the timing of Gase’s decision. “I had to let it be known that we’re looking for sponsors and drivers. He can’t commit to say he can do it, so I can’t be left hanging. I talked to him about two months ago and asked him, ‘What is your plan?’ He said, ‘I want to run Cup.’ I said then, ‘I have to take care of this team. I need to look for somebody to replace you if that’s what you’re going to do.’ Without him being able to make a commitment, that’s what we had to do.”

Gase ran a partial schedule for Means Motorsports in 2012 and 2013 with a best outing of 19th at Kansas Speedway during the first season. In those 38 races together, Gase had 20 DNFs, mostly by being a start-and-park team.

Since announcing a full-time schedule in 2014, Gase has drove the No. 52 team to a fifth-place result at Talladega Superspeedway  in 2015, while recording top 10s in both Daytona races this season.

Gase, 24, has competed in 19 career races at the Cup level, six of which come this season with BK Racing and Premium Motorsports, finishing in the top 25 in three events. The next step for his career is making the leap to the top division in motorsports, though he has nothing set in stone.

“I want to be as close to full-time as I can,” Gase said over the phone. “That was my dream when I was a little kid and most people’s dreams when they want to be a racecar driver is to get up into the Cup Series and trying to win a championship there. That’s my goal is to get up in the Cup Series full-time next year and if not next year, the year after that.

“That’s kind of how it goes in racing. I’m pretty confident that I will find something for next year, but it was a deal where if I committed to Jimmy right now, I might not be able to go full-time Cup racing next year with the way the schedule works out and a bunch of things that people don’t always see or realize.”

Gase admitted that even if he didn’t run a full season in the Cup Series next year, but ran enough to go for Rookie of the Year, that he’d have to run for Cup points, which would have put Means Motorsports in a bend. For each race an XFINITY Series driver is in the car, the No. 52 team receives $6,000 per race from the current TV deal.

Despite Gase making a move to benefit his own career, Means has enjoyed his time with the young driver.

“He brought the stability of having the same driver week-in and week-out because it is a pain having a different driver every week with changing seats and all of that,” Means said of Gase. “You get to know one certain driver and know their style and he definitely took care of our equipment as time went on and took care of a little bit of sponsorship for us to build our program.”

Means admitted that there was never a year-to-year contract between the driver and owner, but more so of  a “handshake deal.” He also realizes that everyone in racing wants to be a part of the Cup Series at some time.

“Everybody aspires to be at the top level in this game,’ he said. “I’ve been there and I was there for almost 20 years. He’s run a few Cup races, and for whatever reason people want to spend a little more money to do Cup sponsor-wise than they do in XFINITY. I understand that. I have no animosity at all over him trying to prove himself.”

With less than four months until the green flag waves at Daytona to kick off the 2018 campaign, Means Motorsports doesn’t have anything solidified. The plan is to run the full 33-race XFINITY season, though the driver must bring some sort of funding to the organization.

“We’ve already had some inquires, more than I thought we would at this point and time,” Means elaborated. “We’ll shuffle through that and see what we can get out of there. I want a driver of Joey’s capabilities and his smarts, knowing when to drive it hard and knowing when to not and to know what our budget is. Those are rare qualities of someone who can take care of equipment and go fast, too.”

With four races remaining in the 2017 season, Gase sits 22nd in the driver standings, while the No. 52 team sits 30th in the owner standings.

“It’s definitely difficult,” Gase said of departing Means Motorsports. “I’ve been there for a long time and it’s hard to go for change sometimes, but sometimes you’ve just got to try and make the leap and hope for the best. They were able to commit to me a few years ago and when they did that it made a big jump for my career and made a big jump for their team as well.”

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