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From Staten Island to NASCAR, Karasinski battles

November 14, 2011, Official Release, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Cancer survivor, Edwards' team named fourth quarter most valuable pit crew

Helping beat 42 other teams off a Sprint Cup Series pit road is tough enough.

Beating cancer is even tougher.

"Myself, I take pride in doing a good job but it doesn't mean anything if you don't win [the championship]. It's disheartening."

--JOE KARASINSKI

Joe Karasinski, gas man for the No. 99 Ford of Carl Edwards, has done both. The 39-year-old Staten Island, N.Y., native (and Spotswood, N.J., resident) is a member of the fourth quarter 2011 Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew under crew chief Bob Osborne. The award goes to a Roush Fenway Racing team for the second consecutive quarter following the No. 17 Ford of Matt Kenseth and crew chief Jimmy Fennig.

The No. 99 team is comprised of Karasinski, rear tire carrier Jody Fortson, China Grove, N.C.; rear tire changer Dwayne Ogles, Hoover, Ala.; jackman Dennis Killian, Wentzville, Mo.; front tire carrier Alan Troutman, China Grove, N.C.; front tire changer Kale Uphoff, McFarland, Wis. and pit crew coach Andy Ward, Kannapolis, N.C.

Karasinski, who'll celebrate 10 years with Roush Fenway Racing next month, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early 2008 -- an illness that also afflicted his mother. "I felt run down and didn't have much energy," said Karasinski, a former high school shot putter. The diagnosis "wasn't what I wanted to hear but the doctor told me, 'If you're going to have cancer, this is the one to have -- we can fix it.'"

Surgeons removed Karasinski's thyroid and 68 lymph nodes followed by radiation treatments. The process put the crew member on the shelf for 2 1/2 months. Annual screenings have confirmed his cancer is in remission.

Karasinski returned to the team at the 2008 Sprint All-Star Race and has been on pit road since. He was part of Kurt Busch's 2004 championship team, a front suspension specialist, before joining the No. 99 team in 2002.

"I was with the 97 [Busch] at the time and they needed a gas man. A guy twisted his knee and I filled in for him," said Karasinski, who became a NASCAR fan as a young boy during visits with his father to Wall Stadium in New Jersey. After working on a General Motors assembly line, as a tow truck driver and at a car dealership, he moved south in 1998 without a guarantee of a job. "It was a dream and a lot of my friends told me, 'As a northerner, you'll never make it in the south,'" Karasinski said. They obviously were wrong -- which Karasinski likes to point out when he visits the old neighborhood.

Karasinski is the oldest member of the fourth quarter Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew -- by at least seven years. "It's a challenge; we're all at different places in our lives," he said. "We've got a great group of guys. We all have a job in the shop but we're hired to pit the car. That's where it's at. We work hard all week to get to Sunday."

The crew got Edwards off pit road ahead of championship rival Tony Stewart at Texas Motor Speedway but finished second. On Sunday in Phoenix, they pitted ahead of Stewart on the final stop and finished a position better (second) to preserve a three-point Chase for the Sprint Cup lead heading to this week's Ford 400 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Karasinski is satisfied, yet remembers 2008 when Edwards won the finale but finished 69 points behind as runner up to Jimmie Johnson. And in 2005 when a four-win season resulted in a 35-point deficit to Cup Series champion Stewart.

"Myself, I take pride in doing a good job but it doesn't mean anything if you don't win [the championship]. It's disheartening," he said.

With one race remaining, the Chase heads to South Florida for the Ford 400 (ESPN, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, 3 p.m. ET).

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