By Jeremiah Davis
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – “I’ve never seen anything so stupid in my life.”
Cedar Rapids native and NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Joey Gase was all of us watching at the end of the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. The first 100 or so laps of Saturday’s race were dicey, but clean. The mixture of Cup Series and Xfinity Series drivers ran two and three wide all day.
Then all hell broke loose.
Gase was involved in two wrecks – the first, he escaped with some minor fender damage and a wasted set of tires. The second he got spun and piled into by several cars as nearly the entire field wrecked on the back stretch. The incident ultimately left him with a slightly sprained right wrist, which he said will be fine by next weekend. Sitting on pit road as his crew assessed the damage, Gase offered the above thought.
That accident sent the race to overtime. More than 40 minutes and four more overtimes later, and by use of a photo from the NASCAR officials, Tyler Reddick was headed to Victory Lane in the closest margin of victory in NASCAR history (any series) – 0.000 seconds.
The four wrecks in between left everyone watching offering similar thoughts to Gase. When he left the infield care center, sporting a brace on that right wrist, he was surprised the race wasn’t finished yet – at least at first.
“(The sprain) probably happened one of the billion times I got hit on the back stretch,” Gase said. “We spun and had damage, but I think we would’ve been OK and then like an ARCA wreck, they just kept on piling in. It was ridiculous.
“The biggest thing is the leaders block so hard, which is different from ARCA. In Trucks, Xfinity and Cup, everyone is right there and the leader is just doing everything they can to keep them behind them and everyone gets stacked up.”
Gase finished 33rd after wrecking out, but the finish was not indicative of how he felt about his car or the performance on Saturday.
The Go Green Racing team made the plan before the race that Gase would drop back and ride for a while to preserve his car and survive “as close to the end as possible.” At one point, Gase drove from near the back up to 15th, essentially on his own, and at the second stage break, he keyed the mic with excitement in his voice and said, ‘this is the coolest [stuff] ever.”
His sentiment didn’t change after the race, even if it was tinged with the frustration of not being able to see it through to the end and get a respectable finish.
“I think everyone figured they made it to that point and now it was time to go,” Gase said. “I was surprised with how clean it was at the beginning, although it was really dicey. I don’t know what the difference is compared to last year, but it was really hard for me to run the bottom or the middle. It was the same for everyone. We were all trying to fight to be up top.
“I don’t know what it is, but it was by far the best car I’ve ever had. It was unreal. I could pass some of the guys without any help. I didn’t lose the draft unless I tried to, to be cautious. It was definitely a blast to have that fast of a car.”
Gase and the Xfinity Series head to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week.