Monday, Nov 28

Ford Performance NASCAR: Joey Hand Looking for Big Things with BlueOval City at Charlotte

Joey Hand will be making his sixth NASCAR Cup Series start this season in his role as road course driver for Rick Ware Racing.  This weekend, Hand will have BlueOval City on his No. 15 Ford Mustang, marking the second time in a month Ford’s 3,600-acre campus located in Western Tennessee will be part of a NASCAR race.  BlueOval City, which recently broke ground less than a year after announcing its plan to build a revolutionary all-new electric truck on site, will create approximately 6,000 new jobs and is on track to open in 2025.

 

JOEY HAND, No. 15 BlueOval City Ford Mustang – YOU HAVE BLUEOVAL CITY ON YOUR MUSTANG THIS WEEKEND AFTER ARIC ALMIROLA HAD IT AT BRISTOL AND SAT ON THE POLE.  DO YOU FEEL ANY ADDED PRESSURE TO MATCH THAT OR TOP IT AND WIN ON SUNDAY?  “I’m always here to put it on the pole and win.  Like I tell people all the time, I don’t leave my family at home to just come and run around.  It’s exciting to have BlueOval City on the car.  I’ve been fortunate this year.  It’s my sixth race this year and I’ve had some fun Ford partners – Ford Pro and Built Ford Tough – so I’m just thankful for Ford to keep giving me these cool liveries and cool sponsors.”

 

HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY SENSE THAT THIS CAR IS HARDER ON PARTS AND PIECES?  WHAT’S THE KEY TO MAKING IT LAST IN THIS RACE?  “I’ve been pretty fortunate in my car.  I’ve taken some pretty good hits this year in the car and it’s been pretty tough, so side-to-side contact doesn’t seem to be too bad with these cars.  What I’ve seen watching these oval races is when they get up in the wall and kind of take a big side hit, they tend to do some toe link damage, but on the road courses I feel like they’ve been pretty good as far as taking a licking and keep on ticking.  As far as I’m concerned, this track is a little different because you do have the opportunity to touch walls here unlike a lot of the road courses, where you just get the wheel and put it in the grass, run wide, whatever.  We have multiple spots on the oval that we can touch the wall and then I got turned in the infield last year at this race in turn two.  Cars were trying to go two and three-wide in that section.  People always ask me about this track and what it’s kind of like, and it’s probably the most street racy track that we definitely run in the Cup stuff in NASCAR.  There are opportunities to catch the wall here and I think staying out of the fence is definitely a big part of it.  That’s always the case, but I think the cars, for me, have been pretty strong as far as taking hits.  I’m hoping to not take anymore hits to be honest.”

 

YOU RAN AT PETIT LE MANS OVER THE WEEKEND, SO IS THERE ANY SIMILARITY TO WHAT YOU RAN LAST WEEKEND TO THE CUP CAR ON THE ROVAL?  “That’s what a lot of people talked about leading into this year also with me is, ‘Oh, it’s right in your wheelhouse.  It’s GT style.’  I think the thing that stands out as far as where they’re different is that this car is super heavy compared to the GT cars that run or even the Ford Mustang I ran this week.  The car is heavy and you really work the tire hard in the Cup car.  That seems to be week in and week out.  The races I’ve run in is how do you hit the tire, how does that tire dig, degrade, so that’s the stuff we’re more focused on in this.  Nowadays in the GT stuff, you have traction control, shift no lift, and ABS and we have none of that in the Cup car.  We do have underbody downforce now, so we have a functioning splitter.  We have a diffuser now in the Cup cars and that stuff plays more into my wheelhouse, but the things you drive around in the Cup car are still the weight and how high it is, so your CG, and how that hits the tire and how you work the tire every week.  It’s different.  It’s definitely more similar than the old car.  This has gone full circle for me now because this is where I made my NASCAR debut last year in the Cup race and I did that without any practice.  I had never been in a Cup car and just showed up and did the green flag start, so last year the cars with that big balloonier tire with the 15-inch wheel and a lot of sidewall you’d have a lot  of tire chatter in the rear tires, so if you drove it in a little too deep and you started to slide the rear, the tire chatter, it was tough to get back from that tire chatter.  That’s what I recognized with the old car and the Next Gen car with the tire, with the bigger wheel, with the different suspension package like the independent suspension – everything different – the car may drive more GTesque as far as you can drive it over the edge of the tire and get it back real quick.  You can drive it over and come back, so you can ride that edge much nicer in the Next Gen car than you could the old tire.  The old car, you got in a little deep the tire would chatter and you’d go up the road and lose spots.  This is not the case.  You can drive it through the whole corner.  The thing is, again, the Next Gen car talking about similar to the GT, the brake zones have compressed, so you see probably a brake marker and a half, almost two brake markers deeper than we were last year at this track and so it makes the passing a little more difficult.  You’ve got to really jam it in there and really make a pass deep in the brake zone, so that’s a little bit more like sports car racing right there.”

 

WILL YOU RUN WITH FORD IN THE FUTURE IN GT?  “Moving forward, it’s no secret now since I was in Detroit for the launch of the new Mustang line – the Gen 7 Mustang – what I will be involved and what I can say is I will be involved in the development of the GT3 Mustang and continue on with the GT4 Mustang like I’ve been driving in the last few races in IMSA.  That’s gonna move forward.  The idea behind the GT3 Mustang is we’re gonna develop drive it throughout the year next year.  It will run through all of its homologation stuff throughout the middle and three quarters of the way through the year in preparation to race it for the first time at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2024.  To be honest with you, beyond the next couple of months and develop driving – I know I’ll be doing that – but what I’ll also do I’m not 100 percent sure.  I’ll definitely drive Ford stuff.  That we now.  It’ll be fun.  I tell people all the time the number one thing I love to do is race.  I love the battle, the war.  I love the thrill of racing and that fight, but second to racing develop driving is my second-favorite thing.  I’ve been involved in a lot of stuff with different manufacturers.  I’m involved with the Ford GT obviously and it’s cool because you know what this car is going to do for the next few years to come.  This GT3 Ford Mustang will be a customer car, along with GT4 and it’ll also be raced as a pro pro entry in IMSA, so it’s gonna go see a lot of racetracks.  Bill Ford announced at the Mustang launch in Detroit about Ford’s interest in going back to Le Mans with it, but this being in the GT3 category it’ll run Nurburgring, Spa, Sebring, Daytona and so we’re not talking about a car that’s specific to the United States.  It’s gonna be run across the world, so there’s a little bit of pressure added to the guy that’s gonna be in the development to get it right.  You want everything right.  From my side of it, I plan on my butt being in the seat for a lot of those years.  That’s what my hope is and driving in a lot of those races is my hope, and I want it to be really nice to drive.  I want it to be fast and I want to be able to win races in it, so I have a vested interest in making the car go good and feel good, along with just having people that will get to drive this car over the years, whether they buy it as a customer or other pros, say, ‘Dang, this thing is sweet.’”

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY NASCAR PLANS FOR 2023 AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CHICAGO STREET RACE?  “I don’t know my plans for NASCAR next year.  Of course, I’d love to do some more NASCAR races.  I feel like I’m just starting to figure it out as far as who you’re racing, how they race and just the whole program in NASCAR.  The pit stops and the pit lane and all this stuff is different for me coming from sports cars.  I thought at Watkins Glen we had a really good car.  We were fast.  We did things right.  We had a little bit of an issue at the end of the run there where I locked the rear brakes real heavy and spun and that kind of took us out of contention, but, other than that, I think we had a top 10 car – a legit top 10 car – so that’s why I’m excited about this weekend.  I’ve been here.  I did the test in the Next Gen car last year on the Monday and Tuesday after the race, so I feel good about where I’m at as far as pace and running Cup cars right now, but I don’t know what Ford wants me to do next year.  I would be a fan of racing that first street race in a Cup car, that’s for sure, because I’ve been known for street racing and I’ve had some pretty big wins on street courses.  I came from open wheel racing – Formula Atlantic and Indy Car stuff – and raced on the streets of Vancouver and Detroit and Long Beach and I’ve won a lot of those races.  When they were talking about street racing in Cup I was like, ‘Yeah, sign me up.’  Again, I’m not sure what Ford wants to do with me next year.  I know one of my priorities is GT3 development driving, but if we could squeeze some NASCAR stuff in, I would surely say yes.”

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CHICAGO STREET RACE REPLACING ROAD AMERICA?  “I love street racing, but I love me some Road America too, so that was a tough one.  I felt like Road America this year, we were in the top 10 shootout, which is pretty big for the 15 car, and it’s tough to not see Road America.  I love that track, but these guys have to do what they’ve got to do.  They know the markets better and you just roll with it.  I think going to street racing, I’m a huge fan of street racing because it brings it to the people.  There will be a lot of people in Chicago that didn’t come for the race and will be like, ‘Well, I’m here, so I’m gonna watch racing.’  You’re gonna gain fans no matter what.  There are just so many cool things about street racing.  When you’re talking about the Long Beach Grand Prix and a lot of these races we go to, it’s crazy that at Long Beach we drive right along a marina and there’s a PF Chang’s and a burger place and these people are literally having lunch 10 feet from where the car tracks out against the concrete wall.  It sounds like that’s gonna be a similar thing for Chicago.  Honestly, I would love to do it just because it changes the game.  Like I was talking about before with the Charlotte Roval being slightly like a street course, you don’t get the option to just run wide and just dip a tire in the grass or park it in the gravel or whatever like at COTA and some of these other tracks.  You are literally controlled by walls, so it really separates guys that have a good feel for the car and the edge of the car, like how close can I come?  I buzzed the mirror off on a pole lap in the Ford GT at Long Beach and just only touched the mirror and nothing else to survive the lap and put it on the pole, so the nice thing with these new cars is it allows NASCAR to go street race because the new body you can touch the wall like we would in other cars and not tuck a fender onto a tire and stuff like that.  You’ll be able to run out, touch the wall, drag your wrap off a little bit and keep on trucking, so I think it’s a good time to give it a test.  It’ll be interesting to see how wide they can make the track.  Obviously, the Cup cars are pretty big, so it’ll be interesting to see how wide they can make the track.  If they can make it more than two-wide in some spots to make for some passing spots, but I tell you what if I’m not in the race, I will be watching very closely at that race to see what’s going on.  I think it’s gonna be fun.  Everybody’s got an opinion on where the first street race should be for NASCAR.  For me, I’m not paid to make those decisions or even have an opinion on where the right place is to do it, but I can tell you one thing for sure, no matter – in all of the street racing I’ve done all over the world – no matter where you put a street race, you gain fans and I’m pretty sure that’s the idea.”

 

ARE YOU GOING TO POKE THE FORD FOLKS ABOUT GETTING AN XFINITY RIDE FOR ROAD AMERICA?  “I’m poking everybody all the time.  My goal is to race cars anytime I can get into a car, so I think the Ford family and everybody at Ford, especially Mark Rushbrook.  He’s been at Ford for a long time and he was with the Ford GT.  I was poking him from 2015 when I first got into a Ford deal, ‘Hey, if you ever need a NASCAR driver or need someone to sub in,’ and it kind of worked.  I worked my way into a Cup car here, so I’ll keep poking.  I’m just happy to be a Ford guy and happy to do what they want me to do.”

 

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE CUP SERIES FIELD FROM A TALENT PERSPECTIVE TO OTHER FORMS OF RACING WHERE YOU’VE COMPETED, AND ARE CUP DRIVERS MORE AGGRESSIVE?  “I would rate the level of drivers very high.  I think the difference from the series that I’ve run prior throughout my career is you have such a deep level of talent from first to 35th, 37th.  I mean, what I notice differently about Cup racing is that I’m in a fight all the time.  I’ve been racing for third – legit third at Watkins Glen I was in a fight.  I was in 35th at one point trying to get my way back through and I was in a fight.  There’s no time for rest is what I think you recognize in a Cup race because you’re always racing against good guys.  It’s kind of funny to see Mike Rockenfeller out there.  Him and I were banging doors in DTM in Europe, totally different cars, totally different style of racing.  Now you’ve got Connor Daly coming in this weekend.  Connor Daly drove for me in karts when he was younger and I had a kart team – like super nationals and stuff like that.  So, you have a lot of guys out there with a lot of talent and, like Rockenfeller, we were talking about it.  We went to dinner before the last race at Watkins Glen, which was his first race, and he said, ‘What can you tell me?’  I said, ‘Well, you’re gonna be in a fight all day long.  It doesn’t matter where you’re at on the track, you’re gonna be in it.’  Everybody that you’re running with, even in the 20s or the 30s or the teens or one through 10, everybody believes they can win and a lot, rightfully so, some not so much, they just think they should be there.  Just like me, I’m a guy that most guys I’m only here six races in the year, I’m not here for three weeks or 10 weeks and then I’m all of a sudden here, but I come to win and I fight to win.  I’m fighting everybody like I can win this race, too.  You just end up with hard, hard racing and I honestly think that’s what makes the show.  That’s what makes NASCAR such a great show is you can move the camera from top 10 to top 30 and you can still watch a really good fight in a good way.  I think I’ve said this here before, I wanted to race NASCAR when I was young.  I always wanted to do it and because of that I’d always follow racing it’s like, ‘Man, there’s racing all the time the whole race.’  Not that we don’t do that in other series, but in a sports car race when you’re talking about 10 hours or 24 hours, we’re not going at it so strong in the first two hours.  You’re always like that last hour and a half is where you really get after it.  These three to three and a half hour races are high intensity and I dig it.”

 

DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE FIELD WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE IN SPORTS CAR RACING?  “I hoped that as soon as I got into my first race of the year.  Everybody talked about that and we hoped that, but what you learn really quickly is that these guys are really good and they learn really fast.  Along with the fact that we have great simulation and everybody does now, everybody’s got simulators they’re working on and probably driver coaching and help in that way, similar to what I’m doing over here with Ford.  They get going pretty quick.  The advantages go away pretty fast, but I think if there’s something that stands out for me that I tend to do on a regular basis in the top levels with everybody is probably braking.  The deep on the brakes and how you manage the brakes, I mean, in sports cars or road racing every week I’m working on brakes and brakes are always like, as far as how you brake and how deep you brake.  That’s really what separates guys.  Like I tell people all the time when I’m coaching them, I’ve got my kid, I’ve got other people I coach, I can pretty much get anybody from the middle of the corner off.  I can teach them how to stand on the gas and drive off the corner, but it definitely is more difficult to get that car in on the brakes and the guys who get a few feet in deeper, that’s lap time.  It seems that is something that’s helped me out through these races is being able to maximize the brake zones, but what you learn really quick in NASCAR is you need every little single bit but that’s also what’s so fun about it.  Everybody and every team on every car number, manufacturer, is all looking for those little bits.  I’ve been driving for 32 years now and that’s all I’ve been doing is looking for those little bits.  It’s a good time.  I don’t think I have a really huge advantage other than I am always working on road courses.  These guys are on ovals and road courses, so that might be my only advantage, but there are a lot of good wheelmen out here.”

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