U.P. native Franklin joins new race team

Courtesy photo Duane Franklin (right) talks with StarCom Racing driver Quin Houff (left) before the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway May 28 in Concord, North Carolina.

Norway native Duane Franklin — who spent the last two years working with now-defunct StarCom Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series — has landed himself in a new role with a new team for the 2022 NASCAR season.

Franklin will be joining Joey Gase Racing — a brand new team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series — for the upcoming season as a mechanic, a role he hopes can help him further his career in the sport.

“Obviously, I feel great about it,” Franklin said. “That’s the dream job. I’m hoping one day down the road to be a car chief, but you’ve got to start at ground one. This is ground zero. I feel like my time at StarCom was great, but I didn’t get to do as much on the mechanical side as I wanted to. So, this is a good opportunity for me.”

Outside of management, Franklin was the first hire for JGR’s operation, something he noted was especially cool.

The opportunity to join Joey Gase Racing came through a Twitter post made by team owner and driver, Joey Gase. The post — a press release from the team — read that Gase would be driving for JGR, which is also a well-known acronym for Joe Gibbs Racing. However, one sentence into the release, it was made clear that the JGR being referred to was, in fact, the brand new Joey Gase Racing team.

The attention-grabbing initials did their job, though, as Franklin clicked on it.

“That’s where I found out that he was starting his own team,” Franklin commented. “I had a couple interviews (with other teams), but nothing came about. So, I put my resume in, and they gave me a call.

“Him being with Rick Ware (Racing) last year, I kind of got to know him a little bit. It just worked out that he needed people, and I wanted to continue what I was doing. Just right place, right time.”

While Franklin is excited to begin working more on the mechanical side of things, the chance to help a burgeoning team grow in its early stages is what invigorates him the most about the new role.

“I’m really looking to help this team build from the ground up,” he said. “We have five cars and all good equipment, actually. … The programs (Gase) has put in place should help us get on our feet a lot faster. But, it’s going to take time and patience.

“The mechanical side is what I’ve always wanted to do besides drive. … That’s why I want to go on the mechanical side because that’s where I’ll be able to do the best work and help build that program.”

Franklin’s joining of Joey Gase Racing comes after a period where much was uncertain about the Yooper’s future in the sport. When StarCom — who sold its Cup Series charter to 23XI Racing — shut its doors at the end of the 2021 season, Franklin was left “heartbroke.” However, speaking with fellow Yooper Greg Ives helped him regain a positive outlook.

“I worked hard to get in the sport at one of the top levels, and it was gone after only two years,” he said. “(I) went through all the emotions. At the end of the day, NASCAR is still a business, and the people at StarCom made a business decision. I was down, thinking I was out. However, after a conversation with Greg Ives, I quickly got my confidence back.”

Franklin added that in addition to Ives, other people who have helped him along the way include Charlie Langenstein — a fellow StarCom employee and multi-time championship-winning team member at Hendrick Motorsports. Franklin noted that anytime he needs anything, these two are among those who will always be there to lend a hand.

In addition to working at Joey Gase Racing for 2022, Franklin is hopeful of a return to the Upper Peninsula to do some racing at Norway Speedway and the Upper Peninsula International Raceway in Escanaba is in store.

“I talked to Ryan Wender (two-time Norway Speedway Super Stock Champion) when he was down in Martinsville for the fall race with the Ark.io company with Travis (Walker),” he said. “I told him I’d like to get behind the wheel if I do get up there and run, and he offered up his car.

“I’d love to (run UPIR) if possible if I can find somebody in Escanaba because I’ve never been able to run that track. I’d love to get into a modified or a street stock and see what I can do there. I’ve run on both surfaces and been successful and both and would love to come up there and do it all in one weekend and see what happens.”

Though he is on the cusp of beginning his third year in NASCAR, Franklin said it still hasn’t sunk in all the way that he is working at the level he is.

“Honestly, I haven’t grasped it completely. In the U.P., you look at NASCAR, and it’s an arm’s length away just by turning your TV on wherever your remotes at,” he said. “But, to actually take the step to come down to North Carolina and risk it all really — from being comfortable where I was working to putting everything on the line — it was just now or never. I’m now 36, I was 34 when I got the first job, and I was just running out of time. And I didn’t want to be the guy that just gave up.

“I’ve been in NASCAR for two years now, going on three, and it’s been everything I’ve dreamed of. I’ve made good friends, I’ve learned a lot and, obviously, got a lot more to learn.”

One message Franklin hopes his story can help send is to never give up on goals and dreams.

“Dreams do come true,” he said. “Just keep working, keep pounding the pavement and whatever your dream may be, it will come true if you keep working at it. You just have to not give up and work hard.”


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