When Joey Gase entered the media room at the Iowa Speedway Saturday morning, his smile and enthusiasm painted the picture of a young kid just happy to be there. When he started speaking, however, this talented driver coming off of a great finish in Talladega quickly dispelled any assumptions about his being anything but the real deal. Joey Gase is poised, professional, and passionate not just about racing, but about his sponsor and their mission. There is much more to this young man than meets the eye at first glance, though it does not take long to see it.
Gase drives the No. 52 Iowa Donate Life Chevrolet for owner, Jimmy Means. More than many drivers, he embraces the role of spokesman for the cause of his sponsor. In fact, it is a very personal cause for him. He lost his mother in April of 2011 to a sudden brain aneurysm, and a lack of information caused some confusion over the donation of her organs. He was forced, at age 18, to make the decision to donate her organs to help save others. As it happens, it was a choice that she had already made, but which none in the family was aware of when the question was raised. After that, Gase has made a mission of working to see an increase in awareness nationally about organ donation. He continues to honor his mother with every race, and every appearance. His message is on his lips everywhere he goes, and he goes to some places which would overwhelm many people.
The story of his mother and her passing is deeply emotional, and yet he tells it everywhere he goes. When asked how he became partnered with his sponsor, he said that he had sought them out, looking for a way to tie his talents with his mission. When the opportunity came up, a perfect match was struck. He has continued to do well by them, both on and off the track.
In 2012, a feature was released about Gase and his meeting with a young man who received a kidney from his mother and had been saved. He invited the man to the Idaho race for the meeting, and it was a tearful, raw and emotional time. The video below is of that feature. This year, Gase is getting stronger, both with his driving and with the delivery of his message. He has grown into both roles, and merged them seamlessly. In his last race, at Talladega, he had his best finish of the season when he came in 11th place. He is showing control and patience, and a general maturity which will likely continue to pay dividends for the Donate Life team. Likewise, when delivering his message, he has clearly matured as well.
When asked about his public appearances, he is excited and positive. He speaks with an ease that is not at all manufactured or stilted. He does not struggle to put his sponsor into his interviews, he has naturally stepped into the role of public representative. When asked how difficult it is for him personally to go to hospitals and see so many children who are ill as a part of his duties, he said, “Not difficult at all.” He spoke with enthusiasm about being able to bring smiles to their faces while they face the difficulties that they do. He spoke with pride about being able to make a difference.
Joey Gase has grown into a representative that any sponsor would be happy with, and he comes into Iowa with a mission. He has merged his development as a driver with his development as a public persona. All eyes will be on him this Sunday as he heads out onto his home track, looking to bring his message to a new venue: victory lane.
Commentary By Jim Malone
Interview: Iowa Speedway 5/17/14