DEARBORN, Mich. – Joey Hand has competed on some of the most recognizable road courses in the world, but this weekend he’ll have a different experience as he makes his NASCAR Cup Series debut on the Charlotte Roval for Rick Ware Racing.
“I come from a road racing background and have followed Joey’s career forever, so it’s very exciting to be able to have another driver make their Cup Series debut with RWR, especially with someone of his stature,” said Rick Ware, owner, Rick Ware Racing. “This is a good chance for us to see where our program is at when it comes to road courses, and having someone of Joey’s caliber will serve as a good benchmark for sure.”
Hand has been associated with Ford Performance since 2015 when he became a full-time driver for Chip Ganassi Racing and teamed with Scott Pruett to finish fourth in the IMSA Prototype point standings.
The following year he joined the newly-formed Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team and, along with Sebastien Bourdais and Dirk Muller, took the Ford GT to a popular GTE Pro class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 50 years to the day after Ford’s first victory in the iconic endurance race in 1966. The three drivers also won the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona and the program won 19 times and captured nine pole positions globally during the program’s four seasons with Hand and his teammates.
“We value everything that Joey contributed to our GT program and have tried to keep him involved in our motorsports program ever since as a coach for our NASCAR drivers and as a product ambassador for the Ford GT,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “We view Joey as being one of the best road racers in the world and appreciate NASCAR working with us to get him approved for competition this weekend. We’re confident he’s going to do a great job. He has great respect for the sport and the competitors in NASCAR.”
For Hand, 42, this represents the culmination of a dream that started when he was a kid racing go karts in his native California and continued after joining Ford Performance.
“I’ve been wearing Mark Rushbrook out for several years now because every time I would go to the Ford simulator I would see that NASCAR buck in the corner and talk about wanting to get in and drive it,” said Hand. “I was like, ‘Hey, Mark, remember my helmet is locked and loaded. If somebody gets sick, I’m on my way.’ I just wore him down, I think, but this is truly a dream come true for me. I’ve always wanted to compete in a NASCAR race and Sunday I’ll finally get my chance.
“This means a lot to me to be able to do this with Ford. To be part of the historic Ford GT program, and to have had developed such a great relationship with Bill and Edsel Ford, and so many other people at Ford Performance these past few years, it just seems right to be able to have a Blue Oval on my car when I make my NASCAR debut.”
Before joining Ford, Hand competed in the DTM series from 2012-14 and had been in the American Le Mans Series from 2004-11, where he won two 12 Hours of Sebring titles and the 2011 GT Driver championship.
“I always thought that NASCAR was the place for me because I almost thrive in situations where I’ve got a little damage and the car shouldn’t be fast, but you find a way to drive around it,” said Hand, who joins Cole Custer as recent Ford drivers who have made their Cup debut with RWR. “I’ve always felt that’s the way NASCAR was because if a fender gets damaged, they tape it up and keep going. It’s like a fight to the death and that’s my style. That’s what has always attracted me to NASCAR.
“On top of that, I’ve spent most of my life in all different types of cars and this weekend will pretty much complete the circle as far as that goes,” continued Hand. “I’ve always just wanted to say I’ve driven it all and I wheeled it all at a good pace. I’m tired of watching video of last year’s Roval race. I’m ready for the real thing and can’t wait to get behind that wheel.”
The Bank of America Roval 400 is scheduled for Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 10 at 2 p.m.