Life in the fast lane

Rylee Beardsworth

A racer enjoys the fast lane.

Joey Gase graduated from Xavier High School in 2011 and drove right to the race track. Gase began racing at eight years old when he competed in a go kart race at Hawkeye Downs Speedway and won. At age 14, he began racing in a full size car, and at 18, he made his first start in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Gase has been at the race track for most of his life.

“Racing is something I have always loved and had a great passion for. My dad raced before I did, but just at the local short track level at Hawkeye Downs Speedway,” Gase said. “Ever since I can remember, I loved helping him work on his cars and watching him every Friday night. It is something I have never lost a passion for and it continues to grow.”

Gase’s career has been full of many accomplishments including being the youngest ever to win the season championship at Hawkeye Downs in the track’s top class of Late Models at the age of 16, finishing fifth at Talladega Super Speedway in 2015 with an underfunded team, being the highest finishing rookie in his first start in the Daytona 500 in 2017 with a place of 23, finishing 20 in this year’s Daytona 500 and many more. Last year, COVID-19 brought a pause to adding more accomplishments.

“It [COVID-19] made our sport stop just as our season was starting,” Gase said. “I am proud to say that NASCAR was the first major sport to get back and we did it safely. The entire industry had a lot of pressure to not mess it up for not only our sport, but every sport out there.”

Once NASCAR returned from the COVID-19 pause, the racer’s families were not allowed to attend the races. This part was especially difficult for Gase, his wife Caitlin Gase, who also graduated from Xavier in 2011, and their two twin 16 month old sons, Carson and Jace Gase.

“We were used to being able to travel with him [Joey] and support him and it was very different when that stopped,” Caitlin said. “It is hard when you cannot be at a race and something happens or he has a bad day and you cannot be there to make sure he is okay or try to cheer him up. The boys and I made sure to FaceTime him before each race when we were not able to go, so we could still tell him good luck.”

Now, the families can attend races again and the Gase family is cherishing every minute of it.

“It means a lot that Jace, Carson and myself are able to attend again because we are able to have more family time. When we travel as a family, we always try to do activities the boys would find enjoyable such as the zoo, parks, Disney World, etc. It has been so fun being able to have that time together,” Caitlin said. 

Although some things have gone back to normal after the pandemic, not everything is the same.

“The other way the sport changed because of COVID-19 is that we do not have practice or qualifying now,” Joey said. “Pre-COVID-19, we would be at the track at least three days for practice and qualifying leading up to the race. Now we show up the day of, go through tech, line up and race, which is very strange. We have no time to get used to the track and most importantly, to see if everything is right on the car.”

Even with all of the abnormalities of the past year, Joey and Caitlin are using lessons they learned at Xavier.

“Xavier taught me to surround yourself with good people and to never give up. To not settle for mediocre, but to strive for excellence,” Joey said.

Joey has never given up, even through the COVID-19 pause, and continually strives for improvement everyday. Caitlin has seen Joey grow throughout his career, from Xavier as classmates, to 2013 when they began dating, to now as they have a family together, it has been exciting for her to see him live out his dreams and have good races.

“It is always fun when he has good races and finishes well, but my favorite memory is the first time we were able to take Jace and Carson to Hawkeye Downs to watch Joey race. Joey won that race and we were able to take a family picture in victory lane,” Caitlin said.

Be sure to watch Joey and his family as they take even more pictures in victory lane as he races in the Geico 500 at Talladega Speedway in Talladega, Alabama on Sunday, April 25.