For roughly five years, Joey Gase says he constantly thought about what it would be like to become a NASCAR team owner. Now, he’s living his dream.
Last November, Gase announced the formation of Joey Gase Racing, which would run the No. 35 car full time in the Xfinity Series. Over a month later, the team added veteran Whelen Modified Tour driver Patrick Emerling as a co-owner. Thus, Emerling-Gase Motorsports came to life.
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“Of all years, this was the best year to do it and probably the worst year, all at the same time,” Gase recently told NASCAR.com. “The competition this year is by far the strongest it’s ever been since I’ve been in the Xfinity Series.”
Since 2014, Gase has made sporadic starts in the Cup Series. During the last couple of seasons, it became his priority, primarily competing for Rick Ware Racing — a schedule that included 33 races in 2020.
But with the implementation of the Next Gen car, Gase needed to find something new. He wasn’t sure that his sponsors would be able to pay the bills to foot him a ride in the Cup Series.
“I knew it was going to be really hard to stay in the Cup Series,” Gase stated. “At the same time, I’ve been in the Xfinity Series a lot, and running my own team is something I’ve always had in the back of my mind.”
Last fall, though, Gase had no equipment. So he took a gander at Shane Lee’s race shop, which consisted of a plethora of parts and pieces from the former H2 Motorsports operation. Gase believes Lee had roughly 75% of the tools it took to start a team, including three chassis.
Not knowing if he would obtain any of it, Gase left with his hands full.
“I wasn’t expecting to buy all of it; I thought I was only going to buy some parts and pieces,” Gase said. “We got talking to the Lees and ended up buying all of it.”
The next goal was to get a race shop. A mutual friend of both Gase and Emerling introduced the two. They both shared a common interest, which led to a conversation about becoming co-owners of a race team. After all, Emerling, who ran the No. 23 Our Motorsports team last season, had a chunk of equipment that Gase didn’t have, including the hauler. He also had ownership of the points from the No. 23 team, which finished 20th in the owners’ standings last year.
Since 2011, Emerling’s family has fielded a competitive Whelen Modified Tour team. In 126 starts, he’s earned four victories, three of which came last season on the way to finishing runner-up in the championship standings. In the last two years, he’s competed in a quartet of Xfinity races, with a best effort of 24th last fall at Kansas.
“Racing has always been my passion,” Emerling stated. “I always wanted to get to the next level as a driver. Teaming up with Joey made a lot of sense. It’s a situation where you don’t know if you don’t try. We came together and so far, so good.”
The team, which has five full-time employees and two part-timers, didn’t even get into its race shop until January. It had to hustle just to have a car – let alone two – ready for the season opener at Daytona for both Gase and Lee.
Because the team came together so late, the team’s first challenge was to find quality employees. But Gase believes that’s hard for any start-up team.
“Finding good people right now is really hard,” he said. “Finding enough people is the hardest thing. And good people. We have a good core group of people right now, but we are hiring and trying to find a few more. We’re looking.”
Unfortunately for EGM, the team does not have a technical alliance with any manufacturer, thus they are running whichever suits them best for a given weekend. For instance, in the season opener at Daytona, the No. 35 was a Toyota and Gase drove the No. 53 Ford.
Because the team doesn’t have the same resources as one of the series’ elites, admittedly, a top-20 finish is the equivalent to a top-five run. And in nine starts this season, the team has accomplished that feat three times, including Parker Kligerman’s 12th-place run at Circuit of The Americas.
“If we can finish in the top 25 in points this year, we’ll be really happy,” Gase added.
Emerling, who plans to run the majority of the Whelen Modified races in 2022, won’t let that schedule conflict with his Xfinity starts. Fortunately for him, he has people in place to run the modified program, so he can focus his attention on the Xfinity schedule.
“It is quite the task balancing both race teams, along with my real estate business,” he said. “The Xfinity team is definitely my main focus. With the competition in the series today, I believe it is as difficult as ever to form a new team in the series, especially on a budget.
“Owning a team allows you to control the situation. That’s all my family and I ever did.”
Through the first eight races of the season, the No. 35 car sits 29th in the owners’ standings, just 12 points below Gase’s goal of 25th. The team has had a few hiccups early on, but also had consecutive top-20 results between Atlanta and COTA. Like Daytona, the team plans to also run the No. 53 car in the series’ next race at Talladega.
Regardless of the results, the duo shares the same vision moving forward.
“To survive, make a living off of it and make it into something we’re proud of,” Gase said of his hopes for the team. “The overall goal is to become a team that can go out and compete for the win every week. That’s something that doesn’t happen overnight.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have – we don’t have all that money yet – but it’s something that takes time. I don’t care what level of racing you’ve been at before, late models, modifieds, ARCA or whatever it might be, everyone that’s here has won before at what they’ve done. So when everyone is here and everyone is winners, it’s a lot harder competition.”