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NASCAR driver advocating for organ donation in honor of his late mother

The owner-driver of Emerling-Gase Motorsports lost his mom when he was 18 but has seen her live on through organ donation.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Joey Gase spends most days planning on taking his race team to the next level.

The 29-year-old Iowa native has competed in all three of NASCAR's top divisions and is hoping for continued success with his team, Emerling-Gase Motorsports.

But even in the fast-paced world demanded of a race car driver's career, Gase finds the time to promote a cause that means a lot to him: organ donation.

When Gase was 18 years old in April 2011, his mom, Mary Gase, died after suffering a brain aneurysm. 

Mary's death struck Joey with grief and left the barely-legal adult with a tough decision. 

"When that happened, the doctors asked us if she would like to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor," Gase said. "It was something we never really spoke a whole lot about. But we said yes."

Gase then learned that his mother would be able to help dozens of people in need of organs.

"We found out she was able to help, save, and improve the lives of 66 people," Gase said. "It was amazing to us. We thought maybe you could help one or two people, we had no idea how many people we really could help."

Credit: Joey Gase
Joey Gase with his mother, Mary (left) and sister, Ashley (right)

Those events propelled Gase to do all he could to spread advocacy for organ donation registration.

"I wanted to do whatever I could to help raise awareness and honor all those affected by it," Gase said. "And not only get people, to register, but also get people to have that talk with their loved ones."

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Early on in his NASCAR career, Gase merged his racing efforts with his organ donor advocacy by signing sponsorships with foundations promoting those same ideas.

Gase says it was early on after his mom went through the organ donation program with Donor Network that he got them to sponsor his team.

"They helped me reach out to all the different [organ procurement organizations (OPO)] across the country," said Gase. "It's all grown from there."

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Since 2013, Gase has carried several organ donation foundations as his main sponsor for a large percentage of races he's competed at in the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.

On Saturday, Gase drove the No. 20 Donate Life Virginia Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Richmond Raceway. With the start, Gase has now been sponsored by organ donation foundations in all three of NASCAR's top series.

Credit: Joey Gase
Joey Gase competes in the No. 20 Donate Life Virginia Chevrolet at Richmond Raceway.

Additionally, Gase has been sponsored by the Gift of Life Donor Program, LifeLink, and One Legacy, among others.

At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gase has driven a car sponsored by LifeShare Carolinas.

Since his mom passed away, Gase has had the chance to meet two of the recipients of her organs. 

"To see firsthand how big of an impact it made in not only their lives, but their entire family lives is just a crazy feeling," Gase said. "They wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for my mom's gift."

Gase continues to encourage people to register to be organ donors and wants to dispel any misinformation out there about the status.

"There's a lot of misconceptions out there, unfortunately," Gase said. The biggest one is if you're in a hospital, and you're not doing well, and they want you to donate they're just gonna pull the plug but I learned firsthand that's not the case at all. A doctor's job is to save you."

The NASCAR driver-team owner plans to continue sponsoring OPOs throughout his career. 

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Gase started Emerling-Gase Motorsports this year with NASCAR Modified driver Patrick Emerling. The team fields the No. 35 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with several drivers racing the car, including the two team owners.

Credit: Joey Gase
Joey Gase competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series

The team announced in July that they plan to run two full-time cars in 2023. One of the rides will have a full-time driver and the other will be split between Gase, Emerling, Shane Lee, and others.

Gase says he hopes within five years the team can compete for wins and a championship. They are also aiming to get the team racing in the NASCAR Cup Series eventually.

Since 2014, Gase has made 90 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series with a best finish of 17th at the 2020 YellaWood 500 at Talladega driving for Rick Ware Racing.

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Gase completed almost a full schedule in the series for Rick Ware Racing during the 2020 season. Although Rick Ware Racing cars usually finish in the back of the pack due to low funding, Gase says that it was a great experience to learn from.

"I think it was it was huge. There's no higher level than the NASCAR cup series. It was definitely tough and a learning experience," Gase said. "I think we did well with the resources that we had, and the opportunity that Rick Ware gave us. I was the highest finishing most times out of my teammates."

Now over a decade into his NASCAR career, Gase hopes to continue promoting organ donation while competing on the racetrack.

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