Cedar Rapids native Joey Gase discusses unique NASCAR season

The driver is in his first full season in the NASCAR Cup Series and will be participating in an event at Hawkeye Downs later this month.


A photo of NASCAR driver Joey Gase’s No. 51 car. The Cedar Rapids native will be competing in the ‘Be a Hero 30’ event at Hawkeye Downs on July 24. Contributed.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

When Joey Gase’s twin sons grow up, he’ll have a lot to tell them about his first season racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series.

The 2020 season started off like any other with the Daytona 500, where the Cedar Rapids native finished 23rd. A few races later, Gase finished 29th at the FanShield 500 in Phoenix. He said he had a lot of momentum after that race.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic made NASCAR suspend its season for a little over two months.

“It was very strange to say the least for sure,” Gase said. “It was something that you never expect to happen or prepare for and that’s basically how every sport and business and everything. You heard about the virus, but you never really thought was going to do what it did to the entire world, so it was really weird to have a break in the [season] just as long as our normal offseason.”

On May 17, the Cup Series returned for The Real Heroes 400 in Darlington, South Carolina. Though it was an official race, it was unlike anything any of the drivers had experience in NASCAR.

As with all Cup races so far after the suspension, there was no qualifying or practice. That meant when a driver got to the racetrack, they were racing for real.

The strangest thing for Gase was there being no fans, which is what most Cup races are still like now.

“But once you got in the car, it was just like being on a bike and right to normal and you didn’t even know any difference once you’re in the car and back racing,” Gase said.

Though Gase did hit a rough patch soon after that Darlington race, he’s starting to get back in his groove. He finished 26th at the Brickyard 400 on Sunday in Indiana.

He also participated in an event that got national attention.

What appeared to be a noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage the Sunday (June 21) that the GEICO 500 in Talladega, Alabama, was supposed to race. Due to inclement weather, the race was postponed the next day, and all the drivers pushed Wallace’s car down pit road. On that Tuesday, the FBI concluded that the rope was fashioned like a noose and did not classify the incident as a hate crime.

“We’re all very tough competitors and can be fighting each other one week and cursing each other out,” Gase said regarding pushing Wallace’s car. “But we all know if something ever happens, we’re all one big family and we always have each other’s back.”

Gase will be returning to his hometown racetrack, Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, for the July 24 “Be A Hero 30.”

This event, which is sponsored by the Iowa donor network, is close to Gase’s heart because his family chose to donate his mother’s organs after she died suddenly from a brain aneurysm when he was 18.

“[The event] first and foremost [is] to raise awareness for organ donation and to get people to register,” Gase said. “And to also hopefully a bunch more cars out there at Hawkeye Downs and show them what a great facility it is and what kind of great racing it can put on not only for the racers but also the fans.”