Of the 37 drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Road America, no one could be more excited than Joey Hand.
Hand is back behind the wheel of the #15 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang for his third start of the season. Ace road racer, Hand is not only happy to be on the field, but to race on his favorite circuit “in the whole world”.
Sunday (3 p.m. ET, US) will be Hand’s first time driving a Cup Series car at Road America.
“I’ve been lucky enough to race around the world in different cars and different tracks, and this is number one for me,” Hand said. “People ask me all the time, what’s your favorite song? America Road. Easy. This is the fastest lap in the race.
Circuit of The Americas, Hand’s first start in March, was more disappointing. Having reached 11th place, suspension issues with the car relegated Hand to a 35th place finish.
Hand finished 20th in his last start at Sonoma Raceway. Not only did he lap every lap, but Hand impressed by driving the car in the top 15 for much of the afternoon.
Hand’s free time between races is much shorter from Sonoma to Road America, which will help his comfort level. Plus, he knows Road America very well and is eager to get on the right track and mix things up with the Cup Series regulars, which he wouldn’t mind doing more consistently.
“Let’s put it this way: I was probably made for NASCAR,” Hand said. “I’m probably here a little too late. The elbows out thing is kind of my style, so when I fell into that thing, I was like, ‘Yeah, finally, we’re doing what I’m doing here. Let’s go!’ I like rubbing is racing. I like making those passes on the inside and having someone hanging on the outside. That’s what I think running is all about.
“At the end of the day, we are an entertainment sport. When I was a kid, people would come to the fence because they were putting on a show. That’s part of the reason I’m here and that’s why people come to these races and watch on TV, it’s because of the show. NASCAR has done a good job of being able to do these [cars] where we can throw it in and out brake somebody but not totally do it and have them run outside and have that wheel-to-wheel race. It’s right in my wheelhouse. I think for me, I just need to be a little more comfortable with who I run with, know who I have to do a little more business with, who maybe has a little more respect for me and who doesn’t.
“I learn pretty quickly about it. Would I go run an oval? Sure. Like I tell people, ‘Yeah, I’m just brave enough and stupid enough to do whatever you want me to do.’
It should come as no surprise that Hand has high expectations for his upcoming start.
“It’s a track that I know very well,” he said of the road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. “I’ve been racing at this circuit since 2005, 2006, when I came to sports car racing. I actually raced here at Toyota Atlantic in 2001 so I’ve been coming for a long time. I used to tell my guys that I’ve won a lot here and the races that I haven’t won have been second or broken in the lead; so I’ve had a lot of success here with the bands I’ve been with, and every time you have success at a racetrack, it always raises your level of likes. So, I really like this one, and so my expectations are pretty high.
“From what I saw, at COTA we had a problem in training and we couldn’t qualify and started at the back. Sonoma, I just didn’t take enough speed but we were about half a lap away from getting into the top 10 in shots We were very close to getting in and qualified 17th and ran pretty well We caught a bad yellow who put us at the back again and made our way to the front, so we were probably better than we looked in the first two races, and hopefully “better than what we looked” sounds good for this one. That’s what I hope: that we look good.