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Xfinity Spotlight: Q&A with Joey Gase

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He’s only 24, but Joey Gase has been around for some time.

Gase is nearing the end of his fourth full-time season in the Xfinity Series, but he’s been competing in it since 2011 when he was 18 and mostly driving start-and-park rides. Since then, the Iowa native has accumulated 172 Xfinity starts and 19 Cup starts.

After six years with Jimmy Means Racing, Gase has decided it’s time to move on. He’s pursuing opportunities that would see him competing primarily in the Cup Series.

“It’s definitely weird,” Gase told NBC Sports. “I don’t think it’s too huge of a risky move, but you never know what can happen. It’s a little different for sure not knowing (with) 100 percent security (of) having a full-time ride with Jimmy and going out and talking with all these different teams. Through the winter last year, to be honest with you, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to make it through the whole Xfinity season, myself and Jimmy.

“Everyone on our team was nervous because of the competition level jumping up so much from the year before and so many new teams coming in and so many cars at Daytona. We were just worried about making Daytona, cause that kind of sets the rest of your season as far as funding for the team. That’s the biggest paying race of the year. … Lucky for us, the beginning of the year went really well for us and we finished seventh.”

Gase again finished in the top 10 at Daytona in July, bringing his career total to three.

Gase will get another chance to tryout for curious Cup teams this weekend as he competes for Tommy Baldwin Racing at Texas Motor Speedway. Driving the No. 7 Chevrolet, it will be his seventh Cup start of the year after previous races with BK Racing and Premium Motorsports.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What’s your earliest vivid memory related to auto racing?

Gase: Ever since my first memories started, I have auto racing. My dad raced before I did back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He just raced at the local short track level. I remember going up there every Friday night in the summer and watching my dad race and cheer him on. I remember during the winter I just couldn’t wait for the racing season to start again so I could go back out and watch my dad race. And I loved working on the car with him as well.

NBC Sports: What was the first time you got in a car to race?

Gase: I did my first go-kart race when I was 8 years old. I was lucky enough to go out and win my first race, which was very surprising and cool to everybody. When I turned 14 I started to race my dad’s old dirt modified.

NBC Sports: What do you remember about winning that first race?

Gase: To have some of the other parents not be too happy and claim we were cheating because it was our first ever race. It was pretty funny and they tore us down in tech and we were legal. To have that and start off well was really cool.

NBC Sports: What was your first car?

Gase: A ’97 Mercury Mountaineer. It was my dad’s car. He had it since it was new. We kind of had to bring it back to life for me. It was a car I wanted to be my first car. Being from Iowa, it was a V8. It was all-wheel drive. It was really good in the snow to go out and have fun like you shouldn’t do when you’re in high school driving around. Go off-roading and stuff like that.

NBC Sports: Have you ever named a car or race car?

Gase: I have not, no. But I talk to them kind of weird, like a person. … I talk to them a little bit. The car has to know that you like them and you’re going to take care of them.

NBC Sports: You’re talking to it during a race?

Gase: More before the race or I guess if you get through a big wreck or something.

NBC Sports: What was the first NASCAR race you attended?

Gase: I forget what year it was, but it would be the Brickyard 400. I went with my grandparents every year. They had season tickets to that race and I would go every year to that. We probably went five years or so. To be able to race in the Brickyard 400 this year for the first time (finished 25th) too was pretty crazy to think about how I used to come there as a fan and thinking how cool it would be to race there and remembered exactly where I sat. … It was a pretty cool feeling.

NBC Sports: What’s the most fun race you’ve ever been a part of?

Gase: There is one race in particular (at Richmond) I remember. Jimmy and I were actually arguing on the (pit) call. He didn’t want to take tires and I wanted to put four tires on. We came down pit road and not too many other people did and we put four tires on and it went green for the rest of the way to the checkered and everyone else had to pit under green. So we had better tires than everyone else, so we were able to fly by a lot people, including the leaders. So when you’re a small team and being able to get lucky on a call like that it’s a lot of fun.

NBC Sports: If you could have a one-on-one race with any driver, who would it be and what would the track and type of car be?

Gase: It would probably be with Rusty Wallace. He was my favorite driver when I was growing up. It would probably be at Iowa Speedway for multiple reasons. I’m from Iowa and I remember how excited I was when they announced they were building a NASCAR track in Iowa and also Rusty Wallace was helping build it and design it as well. I’ve been able to race at that track since I was 15 years old. I think it would be cool to race Rusty at the track he helped design and be at my home track at the same time. … How about a super late model?

Previous Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

Ty Majeski

Ryan Sieg

Dakoda Armstrong

Brendan Gaughan

Garrett Smithley

J.J. Yeley

Harrison Rhodes

James Davison

Jeremy Clements

David Starr

Austin Cindric

Christopher Bell

Jeff Green

Casey Mears

Sam Hornish Jr.

 

Watch: Championship 4 drivers share thoughts on Miami outcome

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After 200 laps Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, William Byron claimed the Xfinity Series championship in his rookie year by finishing third in the Ford EcoBoost 300.

He finished ahead of his JR Motorsports teammates, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, and Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric.

Watch the above video for Byron’s first interview as a NASCAR champion.

Below are interviews with the remaining Championship 4 drivers.

Elliott Sadler

Sadler placed eighth in the race after contact with Ryan Preece with less than 10 laps to go cut a tire on his No. 1 Chevrolet. It Sadler’s fourth runner-up result in the points in his Xfinity career.

Justin Allgaier

Allgaier finished 12th in the race after struggling for most 300-mile event. He was competing without his primary crew chief, who had been suspended for the race. Chad Knaus, the seven-time champion crew chief in the Cup Series with Jimmie Johnson, helped out on the pit box for the No. 7 Chevrolet.

Daniel Hemric

Hemric finished last among the Championship 4 drivers in 34th after his No. 21 Chevrolet experienced battery problems early in Stage 2. Hemric spent 12 laps on pit road before returning to the race.

JR Motorsports sweeps top three in final Xfinity Series standings

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William Byron finished third in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 to give JR Motorsports its second Xfinity title.

The team, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., swept the top-three spots in the final standings with Elliott Sadler placing second and Justin Allgaier in third.

Daniel Hemric placed fourth after finishing last among the Championship 4 drivers in the race.

Race-winner Cole Custer ends the season in fifth.

Click here for the points results.

Results, stats for Xfinity season finale at Miami

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Cole Custer led 182 laps to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It’s his first Xfinity win and the first series win for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Custer swept all three stages of the race and beat Sam Hornish Jr., William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Preece.

Byron clinched the Xfinity title with his third-place finish.

Click here for results.

Cole Custer wins first Xfinity race; William Byron claims series championship

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Cole Custer dominated to win Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, earning his first Xfinity Series victory, as William Byron finished third to clinch his first Xfinity championship.

Byron, 19, clinched the championship and the Rookie of the Year award by finishing ahead of teammates Elliott Sadler (eighth) and Justin Allgaier (12th).

Byron passed Sadler for good with six laps to go after the drivers battled closely for the top spot among the Championship 4 contenders for much of the last 50 laps.

“I don’t think I breathed for the last 20 laps, that was incredible,” Byron told NBCSN. “(Sadler) raced me clean. We raced hard for it. I can’t believe this. I just got to thank God for giving me this platform to perform. I can’t believe this. I’m tired.”

Sadler’s chances of getting back by his teammate were ruined when he made contact with the left rear of Ryan Preece soon after he had been passed by Byron. The contact got Preece sideways and caused Sadler to get into the wall.

Damage from the impact cut a tire on Sadler’s No. 1 Chevrolet. After the race, Sadler got into a confrontation with the Joe Gibbs Racing driver on pit road. Sadler finished runner-up in the championship standings for the fourth time in his career.

Byron’s title is the first championship for JR Motorsports since Chase Elliott‘s in 2014.

Daniel Hemric‘s chances at a title disappeared on Lap 61 when he visited pit road for a battery problem. The Richard Childress Racing driver returned to the track 12 laps later. Until he was passed by Byron on Lap 54, he was the highest running championship driver. Hemric finished 34th.

Custer’s victory comes in his 38th series start. The win is also the first Xfinity victory for Stewart-Haas Racing.

The 19-year-old driver led 182 of the 200 laps, a series-high at the track.

“I haven’t done that in a while,” Custer told NBCSN in Victory Lane. “We definitely had something to prove this weekend. We were so close to making (the Championship 4) last weekend. … Our Haas Automation Ford was unreal. We really wanted to have a good showing on Ford Championship weekend, even though we weren’t in it.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Cole Custer

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

MORE: Race results

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Sam Hornish Jr. finished second for his third top five in six starts this season … Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick finished fourth in his last start with Chip Ganassi Racing … Ryan Preece finished fifth in his fourth start of the year. He placed in the top five in all four races … Ty Majeski finished 10th in his third start of the year for Roush Fenway Racing. It’s his first top 10.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: A day after winning the Truck Series title, Christopher Bell finished 36th after losing his engine on Lap 78 … Ryan Reed finished 20th after being issued a penalty on the initial start of the race.

NOTABLE: Sam Hornish Jr.’s runner-up finish helped Team Penske clinch the owner’s championship … William Byron finished his rookie season tied with Erik Jones (2016) for the second most wins by a rookie with four.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “To be honest with you, if there’s a person you don’t want to cost a championship to it’s Elliott Sadler.” – Ryan Preece