Sports car ace Joey Hand will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at the Charlotte Roval, driving a Ford Mustang 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. “This is a good chance for us to see where our program is at when it comes to road courses. Having someone of Joey’s caliber will serve as a good benchmark, for sure.”
Hand, a former Chip Ganassi Racing driver, began an association with Ford in 2015. That year, he became a full-time driver for Ganassi and finished fourth in the IMSA Prototype standings while teamed with Scott Pruett.
“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.”
Hand has won some of the most prestigious sports car races, from Petit Le Mans to a class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Rolex 24 at Daytona. He also has a GT driver’s championship on his resume from 2011.
“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.”
Sunday’s race will be the fourth on the Charlotte Roval, a 2.28-mile road course inside Charlotte Motor Speedway. It is the second elimination race in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Hand will be the 11th different driver to compete for Rick Ware Racing. He’ll join Chris Windom, R.C. Enerson, and Ryan Eversley to make their Cup debuts for the team this season.
“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. “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.”