Racing: Gase's Gift

By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter

Joey Gase of Cedar watches as the crew prepares his #39 Go Green Racing Ford for practice at the 4th Annual US Cellular 250 at Iowa Speeday in Newton on Friday, August 3, 2012. (Cliff Jette/KCRG TV9)

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By Grant Burkhardt

NEWTON — Joey Gase has butterflies for Saturday, but not for the reason most might think.

He is not fazed by making his 16th career NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the his home state’s track in the event he made his series debut a year ago. The nerves are from what is set to happen before he takes the track.

Gase, whose Go Green Racing car is sponsored by Iowa Donor Network, will meet a recipient of an organ donation from his late mother, Mary Jo Gase, before qualifying for Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.

Mary Jo Gase died April 2011 at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics after suffering a sudden brain aneurysm. She was 44.

“It’s definitely going to be an emotional time for me and my whole family,” Gase said. “I think it’s going to help me, and everybody, get through losing my mom from seeing that part of her can still live on.”

Gase said Friday that he is prepared to meet the man, who benefitted from his mother’s decision to donate her organs. He admitted that could change as the time nears today.

“Hopefully, I’ll be OK through it,” said Gase, noting his younger sister, Ashley is uncertain about being involved. “I think I should be. I think I’ll be more happy than anything.”

A worthwhile cause has made the race even more special to the Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate.

“I’m glad we can honor all the donors and my mom,” said Gase, who praised Iowa Donor Network for their contribution to his race weekend. “I can’t believe it’s happening. It’s really cool.”

The 19-year-old Cedar Rapids native honored his mother with a bright green decal that reads, “Love you mom” on the rear panel of his late model at Hawkeye Downs Speedway. Her decision has also influenced her son’s decision to consider organ donation. Gase understands the impact it has on others being able to live a normal lives.

“I didn’t really ever think about it too much before that happened,” Gase said about organ donation. “I know it helped a lot of other people. It saved a lot of lives. I’m just glad my mom, if she’s going to lose hers, that she could help out someone else.”

Gase has kept his promise to continue his education while pursuing his NASCAR career, taking classes at Mount Mercy University. This weekend marks the anniversary of his Nationwide series debut for GGR when he placed 20th in the 2011 U.S. Cellular 250 here. It still is his best Nationwide finish.

“It’s great,” Gase said. “I’m with the same team I was with last year at this race. I think I should have a pretty good car.

“We should have a pretty good run. We’re hoping for a top-20 (finish) and a clean race.”

GGR signed Gase as a full-time driver before the season after five starts in 2011. He hasn’t run every race, having to drive some with Jimmy Means Racing. The main reason is the struggle to secure sponsors.

“It’s been a big learning experience on and off the track,” Gase said. “From the different tracks I’ve been to and meeting other teams and seeing what it takes to get sponsors and how to find them, seeing what they need and looking for to be on your race car. Without sponsors, it’s pretty hard to make it in this sport.”

A worthwhile cause has made the race even more special to the Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate.

“I’m glad we can honor all the donors and my mom,” said Gase, who praised Iowa Donor Network for their contribution to his race weekend. “I can’t believe it’s happening. It’s really cool.”

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