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?