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Homegrown talent competing in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250

Two Iowa natives having solid seasons in Nationwide Series

Published: Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 11:11 a.m. CST

Landon Cassill and Joey Gase will have large contingents of family and friends at the Iowa Speedway Saturday. The two Cedar Rapids area natives are among the NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers competing in Iowa Speedway’s final race of the 2014 season.

Cassill and Gase climb into their cars Friday for practice sessions on the 7/8-mile track. They will be back on the Speedway track Saturday for the qualifying round to set the field for the 2014 U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland.

The Nationwide Series race is at 7 p.m. Saturday. It will be televised on ESPN.

“It means a lot racing here at Iowa Speedway. I always have a lot of family and friends come to see us run here,” Gase said. “When Newton was building the track, I was young, but excited that NASCAR was coming to Iowa. Rusty Wallace, who is one of my favorite race car drivers, was helping build it. Now, to race here is quite amazing.”

Cassill has the same type of sentiment for his “home track.”

“I love this track. It’s close to home so my family and friends can come watch the race. This is just a great race track,” Cassill said. “I think it provides some really good racing. It makes me proud to see the crowds this track draws, which really shows people not from the Midwest what kind of race fans we have here.”

Both Gase and Cassill are pulling double racing duty this week. Gase is racing his late model stock car tonight at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids. Cassill is flying back and forth from Iowa to Pennsylvania this weekend competing the Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

Cassill finished 10th in the Nationwide race at Iowa in May and comes into Saturday’s race in 11th place in the series points standings. Cassill drives the No. 01 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports with Gary Keller.

Gase ended up 27th in May’s Get To Know Newton 250. He is 20th in the Nationwide Series points standings. Gase drives the No. 52 Chevrolet for Jimmy Means Racing Team. Iowa Donor Network is a sponsor honoring his mother, Mary, who died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in April 2011, and Gase made the decision to donate her organs helping to save 56 people’s lives.

“Mom was a great supporter of mine and she was an amazing person. She’s always on my mind for a race. We will have her image on the hood along with another Iowa organ donor, Jeff Bailey, for this race,” Gase said. “We do what we can to promote organ donation through our racing.”

Gase threw out the first pitch at Thursday night’s Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game. He said they had the Iowa Donor Network car at the game for NASCAR Night. It is Iowa Donor Network Night tonight at Hawkeye Downs Speedway where Gase will race in the late model division.

Cassill and Gase honed their racing skills in similar ways here in Iowa. Both began racing on the go-kart level then worked their way up from there.

“I even raced at the Newton Kart Klub dirt track not far from the Speedway,” Cassill said.  “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for Hendrick Motorsports and be Jimmy Johnson’s test driver. Working for that organization helped mold me into who I am as a driver and build the foundation I have now.”

Cassill was the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie of the year. The 21-year-old Gase said he had been racing at Iowa Speedway since he was 15, when he began racing late models.

Gase and Cassill are coming off runs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Nationwide Series. Cassill finished 16th and Case was 31st.

“Indianapolis is a massive place with a ton of history. It’s another track I used to go to when I was younger. My grandparents would take me there every year,” Gase said. “It was cool to be able race there with the grandstands on both sides of the car when you came down the frontstretch.

“You come from that environment to Iowa Speedway, which is small. I believe I am one of the few drivers in the Nationwide Series with the most experience driving at the Iowa track. It’s great to race at home,” Gase said. “Racing is something I knew I wanted to do and I love everything about racing. It is something I’m good at and I know it is what I’m suppose to be doing.”

Cassill is also relying on experience coming into Saturday’s race.

“We had a good run at Iowa in May. We’re bringing the same car we had in May to drive this weekend. Going from one track to another, I know the experience I have I know what to expect,” Cassill said. “It doesn’t take that long for me to transition and I get pretty comfortable in the car on a track quickly. The big drawback this weekend is practice is limited for me because of running back and forth to Pocono for the Sprint Cup race qualifying. I just have to make every practice lap count here in Iowa.”

Sports Editor Jocelyn Sheets may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 6535 or at jsheets@newtondailynews.com.

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