Leading the Way and Making Tracks— Spring 2013
Joey Gase is not your typical student athlete. Then again, he’s not your typical stock car racer either.
At just 19, Gase is currently one of the youngest racers in the NASCAR Nationwide series. He also happens to be a freshman at Mount Mercy University.
Last year Gase enrolled at Mount Mercy University and also accepted the challenge of joining the Gordon racing team and taking on the NASCAR Nationwide series. Last year, one of the highlights of his season was placing 19th at the race in Kansas.
“Not everyone can do this,” said Gase. “You have to be approved by NASCAR first before you can race and you need to get approval for all the tracks.” He takes great pride in knowing he is making a name for himself along side some NASCAR racing celebrities if you will, Dale Ernhardt Jr. and Danika Patrick for example.
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Gase said he chose Mount Mercy because it was close to home. Plus, several family members—including his dad—had attended the school making it even more familiar territory.
After graduating from Xavier High School, also in Cedar Rapids, Gase knew his faith would play a role in where he went to college as well. “I’ve gone to a Catholic school my whole life so I valued that Mount Mercy was a Catholic institution.”
Gase said Mount Mercy’s reputation as “a good business school” was also a big draw. He is currently thinking about majoring in Management or Marketing – skills he hopes to use in the world of racing.
Of course balancing school and taking to the track have been no easy task thus far, Gase said. But the support he’s gotten from Mount Mercy makes it all possible.
Gase enrolls in just one course at a time to make sure he can keep up with his course work. “My professors treat me like any other student athlete, so it doesn’t hurt my attendance if I miss class for a race,” he explained. “But when I am back home I am focusing on my school work.”
“I really like that Mount Mercy is small,” he said. “That way the teachers really get to develop a relationship with every student. They keep me on track when I’m away.”
These days Gase is away from Cedar Rapids often. The Nationwide series takes him all over the country for races from February through November. He’ll soon be headed to Daytona, followed by races in Phoenix and Las Vegas to kick of the 2013 season, which will bring him to the Iowa Speedway twice.
Racing has been a part of Gase’s life for a long time. “My dad raced locally so I grew up around it,” he said. “I’ve always loved it. It’s like anyone else who inherited a sport. I started racing go-karts when I was eight years old.”
In stock car racing, Gase said you very much start at the bottom and work your way up. He started racing cars when he was 14 and hasn’t turned back since.
And so he remains committed to taking on the school/racing challenge. “My mom always wanted me to get a college degree. And I enjoy being in school and staying sharp on the business side of things.”
His mom, who suddenly passed away in 2011, would be proud of the approach her son is taking to his endeavors on and off the track. In honor of his mother being an organ donor, eye and tissue donor, Gase has partnered with the Iowa Donor Network—both last season and for the 2013 season—to bring awareness to organ donation through his racing.
“My sister Ashley and I were able to meet one of my recipients of my mom’s kidney at my race this past summer. It was a life changing experience for us to meet one of her recipients. It put into perspective how many people my mom helped save and to see how much organ donation helps so many families.”
“My goals for 2013 are to finish in the top 20 in points for the Nationwide Series, help spread the word about how important organ donation is, and honor those who have donated life like my mother did.”
As he thinks about his future, Gase said he knows his Mount Mercy degree will set him apart in the racing world. “In racing you have to have knowledge of sponsors and managing money,” he said. “There are only a select few drivers who actually have degrees in something. So I’m hoping my degree can give me an advantage. Right now, I am probably the only driver who is in school and racing at the same time.”
That is yet another reason the support of his campus community is so vital. While his professors and fellow students are helping him in the classroom, they are also supporting him while he’s out on the track. “The support I’ve gotten from Mount Mercy has been cool,” he said. “I know people are watching and it’s cool to have Mount Mercy comment on my stuff on Facebook and Twitter.” Gase said several friends even traveled to the Iowa Speedway in Newton last year to see his race.
As the 2013 Nationwide Series gets under way, Gase keeps an eye on his future, both in the classroom and on the track. “I’d love to get to the Spirit series,” he said. “I’d love to drive for myself some day or for someone like Tony Stewart. Eventually I want to own my own team.”
For Gase, being part of the Mount Mercy University team may well equip him for just that.