For Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Rick Ware Racing has enlisted the services of IMSA veteran Joey Hand. Hand, who has never raced in NASCAR, will drive the #52 Ford Mustang.
A staple of American sports car racing for two decades, Hand competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after being a regular in its predecessors Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series; he won the latter’s GT class championship in 2011. He was a longtime member of Chip Ganassi Racing and became a Ford Performance factory driver in 2015, during which he scored his first of six WTSCC wins before finishing fourth in the Prototype standings. Two years later, now in the GT division with CGR, Hand won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona GTLM class.
From 2016 to 2019, Hand contested the 24 Hours of Le Mans with CGR and Ford; he previously made his début in the endurance race in 2011 for BMW. The combination, joined by Sébastien Bourdais and Dirk Müller, enjoyed great success in their first year when they scored the GTE Pro class win. The victory also came fifty years after Ford famously won the 1966 edition for the make’s maiden Le Mans triumph.
“We value everything that Joey contributed to our GT programme and have tried to keep him involved in our motorsports programme ever since as a coach for our NASCAR drivers and as a product ambassador for the Ford GT,” Ford Performance global director of motorsports Mark Rushbrook stated. “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.”
Hand’s racing experience also has the open-wheel ladder, which included winning the 1999 title in what is now the Indy Pro 2000 Championship, and DTM from 2012 to 2014. The former allowed him to connect with Mike Shank, who along with Heinricher Racing gave him a ride for the 2020 IMSA finale in the 12 Hours of Sebring, a race that he won in 2011 and 2012.
“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 début with RWR, especially with someone of his stature,” said Rick Ware. “This is a good chance for us to see where our programme is at when it comes to road courses, and having someone of Joey’s caliber will serve as a good benchmark for sure.”
The #52 has mainly been driven by rookie Josh Bilicki (who also has a sports car background), who will move to the multi-driver #15 for the Roval. Hand is the second sports car veteran to début in NASCAR with RWR in 2021 after Ryan Eversley at Road America.
“This means a lot to me to be able to do this with Ford,” commented Hand. “To be part of the historic Ford GT programme, 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 début.
“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. 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. 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.”