Joey Gase entered 2019 coming off his best season in his NASCAR Xfinity Series tenure. But this season has been anything but easy for the Iowa native.
Gase, 26, finished 20th in the championship standings in 2018 running for Go Green Racing, tying his career-best effort (he also finished 20th in 2014). However, at the time, he also had the most sponsorship dollars in his career coming in from Sparks Energy, Inc.
Per Gase, Sparks was supposed to follow him to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019 and join Go Fas Racing — at least that was the plan. Unfortunately, the sponsorship fell through, leaving Gase scrambling late in the 2018 offseason.
“The big sponsor that we had, unfortunately, they committed to us for this year, and I was actually supposed to be going full-time Cup racing,” Gase recently told Fronstretch. “In the middle of the offseason when everything was ready to go, they broke their commitment with us. After that, I had to find out what I was going to be doing this year, if I was going to be racing.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s one thing if a sponsor tells you no, but when a sponsor tells you yes and it’s not only you relying on that, but 20 other people and a whole organization … you think you’re all set, and when they decide not to send the check, it’s a really bad deal.
“It was by far the most stressful offseason I’ve ever had in my life. We had no season primary sponsors, but luckily I had a lot of my associates and single-race primary sponsors that were able to come in and help me keep going.”
An opportunity to run full-time with MBM Motorsports opened up for Gase with just under a month before the 2019 season began. He brought the No. 35 he ran last year and some sponsorship money to Carl Long‘s team, hoping for the best.
This season, MBM has brought four cars to the racetrack on a weekly basis. Along with Gase, Chad Finchum is also running full-time (though he didn’t compete at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway), and Timmy Hill is running the majority of the season (has competed in 19 of 21 events so far).
MBM is one of just two teams this year to bring four teams to the racetrack every week (JR Motorsports is the other). Gase admits that adding a fourth car has been tough for the team, leading to long days, and he’s a proponent of downgrading to two full-time cars at MBM, though noting “if you do that, then you don’t have the cash flow from the other two cars.”
Through the opening six months of the season, Gase has a best finish of 16th at Daytona in February. However, he failed to qualify at the same racetrack in July, missing an Xfinity race for the first time since 2013.
Ultimately, it’s been a year of frustration for the driver.
“I would give it an ‘F,’ honestly,” Gase said of his season. “It’s been a really bad year so far. In February at Daytona, it went really good for us. But after that we’ve had a lot of small issues and lately a lot of big issues. It’s not that we haven’t always had speed, it’s putting it all together. Hopefully, we’ll be able to start turning it around shortly.”
In 20 starts this season, Gase has an average finish of 28.2, his worst since 2014 (29.4) with eight DNFs. In the past two races, at Watkins Glen International and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he’s completed a total of 17 laps.
There was a stretch of racing earlier in the season that saw Gase record four straight DNFs (Pocono Raceway to Chicagoland Speedway). It was mostly due to start and parking, though he did crash out with Vinnie Miller at Iowa Speedway.
But Gase believes the results don’t show the team’s effort.
“We’ve had some motor failures,” Gase said of some of the bigger problems the team has faced. “Even the little things, we’ve got most of them fixed now, but a weekend like Fontana [Auto Club Speedway] or Texas [Motor Speedway] — we had an okay car, but we would come in, put gas in the car and no gas would go in the car. It’s stuff like that we wouldn’t even think about that causes huge problems for us.
“This team runs differently than any other team I’ve ever been on. We’ve had a lot of people come and go. Getting them on a smaller team to where these guys probably work more hours than any other team I’ve ever been on, just trying to get all four cars ready for the racetrack, and sometimes five when we do all four Xfinity cars and the Cup car on top of that. These guys work their butts off, for sure. There’s some weeks that they work seven days a week and 12 hours per day. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
When a driver goes through a spell of bad luck or circumstances out of their control force them to park it early, they can take the smallest of things and use it as a positive.
“Little victories go a long way,” he said. “At Chicago, there were three extra cars [entries] that were in Daytona, and it was kind of back to when I first started at Jimmy Means Racing when the first thing was just getting into the race. When you got into the race, it felt like you won, and now you’re like, ‘Okay, I have a whole race I have to race yet, too.’
“That’s not something I want to do or have to go through, but it’s definitely a rewarding feeling when you do get into the race and make it.”
As the season progresses, Gase’s primary goal is to finish among the top 25 consistently, something he’s done just seven times this year.
- The Xfinity Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and there’s a multitude of Cup Series drivers competing. Kyle Busch returns to his personal playground of Bristol in the No. 18 car, while his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones will make his first start of the season for XCI Racing. Joey Logano will pilot the No. 12 car. Landon Cassill, BJ McLeod, Bayley Currey and JJ Yeley will all be pulling double duty as well.
- Matt DiBenedetto announced on Tuesday (Aug. 13) that he will be driving the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing next week at Road America. It will be DiBenedetto’s first start for JGR since 2010.
- On Thursday, Aug. 15, Ford Performance will unveil a new Mustang race car that will compete in the Xfinity Series in 2020. The event will take place at the Ford Media Clubhouse at Kruse & Muer on Woodward in Royal Oak, Mich.