By Dustin Albino

For nearly five years, Joey Gase pondered over the thought of becoming a NASCAR team owner. Last season, with the help of Patrick Emerling, he made the move, knowing it was becoming more challenging to drive on a regular basis. 

Emerling-Gase Motorsports is nearing the close of its second season. The team jumped to two full-time cars for the 2023 campaign, believing it would help the progression of the team, as well as making it more financially feasible.

“With the competition, it‘s probably the worst time to do that,” Gase said of moving to two full-time cars. “Most teams run at least two cars and that normally makes the most sense financially. It sounds weird, but it‘s cheaper to run two cars than it is to run one car with the way the one car covers some of the costs of the second one as far as travel and equipment.”

Compared to 2022, everything has doubled, however. Gase had to multiply full-time employees by two, with Emerling-Gase currently having 12 positions. The team also invested in additional chassis, parts, pieces and even pit crews that they rent out each week. 

The additional costs add up, particularly when both cars have failed to qualify for multiple races in a stacked Xfinity Series field.

“As Jimmy Means used to say, there‘s a lot more stuff that has to be done to have two cars,” Gase added. “It‘s great when they are both running well. But if you miss a race, it hurts in a bunch of different ways.”

When any team fails to qualify for a given race, it‘s a “big negative sign,” Gase explained. 

The team doesn‘t get any race winnings from the week and at the very minimum, they have to pay for the entry fee to attempt to qualify, travel to get to the racetrack and the over-the-wall crew still has to get paid. It can set a new, underfunded race team back significantly. 

And it‘s been a battle with mid-pack teams this season to just make races in the Xfinity Series.

“We went to two full-time cars and it‘s been a brutal year for every small team, to be honest,” Gase mentioned. “Every team that I consider a small team, including ourselves, [Alpha Prime Racing], JD Motorsports, MBM Motorsports, DGM Racing, [SS GreenLight Racing] — every single team has missed multiple races. The competition this year is absolutely insane, which is good for fans. It‘s tough on us small guys.”

Despite the No. 35 car failing to qualify for COTA and Charlotte, it sits 33rd in the owners standings, a mere 40 points outside the top 30 with three races remaining in the season. The No. 53 entry has encountered more tough luck, resulting in a few missed races and sits 36th in owners points. 

The move to multiple cars hasn‘t all been unsatisfactory, though. Both team owners have gotten to compete more frequently, with Gase running 13 races and scoring the team‘s first top-10 finish at Talladega in April. Emerling has gotten the most opportunities for the team, competing in 16 races and posting a trio of top-20 efforts. 

Cracking the top 20 in the finishing order is hard to come by for smaller teams. And Emerling-Gase doesn‘t take it lightly. 

“If we can have both cars in the top 20, it‘s like a win,” Gase said. “If we can have both cars in the top 25, we‘re happy with that as well.”

Emerling alluded to the team having wrecked more this year that has put the team behind the eight ball. Mechanical failures have also hindered the team, as the No. 53 blew an engine over the weekend at Las Vegas. But there has — and had to be — an uptick in pace.

“We‘ve had a lot more speed in our cars and have made a lot of improvements,” Emerling said. “The one thing that has been a little bit of a setback this year is some wrecks, a little bit of circumstances. It‘s just racing. You have your good years and your bad years. I feel like with the 35 team, it was OK. We‘ve been troubled with some racing related circumstances, even though we‘ve got our cars faster.”

Emerling hopes to find the funding to become a full-time Xfinity driver and continue elevating himself after spending the bulk of his racing career in the Whelen Modified Tour. Gase won‘t give up either, as he‘s had countless obstacles thrown his way since entering the NASCAR scene in 2011. 

“I was probably a little happier last year at this point than I am this year at this point,” Gase said. “We knew we were going to have growing pains and last year went better than expected, so you can‘t be too greedy on things. I think right now, going into the winter as far as how our cars are lined up, I think we‘re set up to be good next year.”

Like all mid-tier teams, Emerling-Gase wants to take the next step. In order to accomplish that, Gase notes, he is looking for the right driver and sponsor to move up the proverbial ladder.

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