Gase Grabs Career Best Road Course Finish in Saturday’s Johnsonville 180

This weekend marked Gase’s 5th time visiting the longest track on the NASCAR Xfinity Series; and it was a successful one. Gase recorded his career best road course finish in Saturday’s Johnsonville 180. The weekend kicked off with two practice sessions on Friday afternoon. One in which Gase sat out due to weather, and the other he recorded 11 laps to get the Sparks Energy Inc Chevrolet dialed in. After practice had concluded he said that he was too loose and he was having problems wheel hopping. So the Sparks Energy team made some solid adjustments for Saturday afternoon’s Johnsonville 180 qualifying. The team used qualifying as practice and laid down 3 more laps. After making his run Gase said that the car was a LOT better.

The field was lined up and ready to take on the hilly 14-turn course that Road America has to offer. Knowing that road courses typically are caution-filled, many drivers will tell you when they travel to these tracks that the goal is to stay out on the track and if you do so you will get yourself a pretty decent finish. Saturday’s Jonnsville 180 was a good example of this. Only three laps into the 10 lap first stage the first caution had come out. Then with only two laps remaining in the stage another yellow flag was waving. There would be a one lap shootout to the green and white checkered flag to determine the stage winner. Matt Tifft would grab the stage win and Gase had gained 7 spots ending the stage in 23rd. 

Gase was satisfied with the stability of the car and how it was navigating the tricky turns. So CC Patrick Donahue would only call for a fresh set of Goodyear’s and fuel. It was a great pit stop by the Sparks Energy team and Joey picked up a spot for the restart. 

They went back to green and Austin Cindric had claimed the lead on the restart. After scorching through the course for a couple laps, Cindric’s Penske hot rod was experiencing some engine issues as he lead the race bringing out the first caution of the stage. During the caution, Gase reported that he was too tight and the brakes seemed worse that run. With that in mind, Donahue called him back down pit road to raise the track bar up two rounds, two rounds in the left rear, and to take some tape off the brake ducts. 

They would get the green with only three laps remaining in the second stage. Gase would restart from the 23rd position. He would lock down that position for those three laps and bring it to final green and white checkered. After the stage was complete, he said that needed more front grip. So Donahue would drop both front tires a pound and Joey would bring it down pit road for a fresh set of tires and fuel. 

With caution laps into count the final stage would be a 23 lap battle to the checkered. Six laps into the final stage Joey reported that he was now too free. Just one lap later a caution had come out for some fluid out on the track. He would come back down pit road to put a pound back in the front tires and drop the track bar to tighten him up. Unfortunately during the pit stop they received a stop and go penalty for running over the air hose.

The field would get the green flag as Gase pulled back down pit road. Despite the penalty, Gase had run his fastest lap of the race just three laps after the green. The team was just praying for another caution to catch them back up to the field. Their prayers would be answered just three laps later when another caution had been brought out. Gase came over the radio under the caution and said that run was definitely the best they’ve been all day.

After the caution it would be a seven lap shootout to the checkered. A couple laps after going back to green Gase would get a shove from behind sending him into the #39 of Ryan Sieg and off the track. The Sparks Energy Chevy sustained some pretty heavy damage on the right front. After the scuffle, Gase came over the radio reporting that he thinks the right front tire had gone down. He said he was wiggling around a bunch and was struggling to keep the wheel straight. With only a couple laps remaining there wasn’t much they could do without losing a bunch of spots. So Gase powered through the final laps and notched himself a top 20 finish. 

On pit road after the race you could see the heavy damage to the right front and there was a noticeable tire rub down to the cords. “I’m surprised that tire held up,” Gase said after the race. “We definitely lucked out with the new composite bodies. If this was a steal body we would’ve lost it for sure.”  

This weekend marked back to back top 20 finishes for Gase, and the teams 10th of the season. Next week they head to Darlington Raceway for NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend. The team will look to keep improving and get their 11th top 20 finish of the year.

Joey Gase PR