Ford’s No. 66 pair seeks third win as Hand heads home

September 8, 2018

Ford’s No. 66 pair seeks third win as Hand heads home

September 8, 2018

The “Joey Hand home race at Laguna Seca” story is an annual part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar (last year’s piece here). There’s a reason for that.

Hand’s yearly trip to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is always a highlight of his year. Monterey serves as the closest race to home for the Sacramento native. It’s also the second California race of the year.

Somewhat surprisingly he hasn’t won at the track, and his longtime co-driver Dirk Mueller has only one win there in 2008. Nonetheless, this is always a big weekend for the American in the No. 66 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

“For me, it’s a big one because not only is it two races to go, but it’s also my home race,” Hand said. “I have a lot of family and friends that come to the race. We even camp at the track, so it’s an exciting one for me.”

Hand’s wife Natalie, son, daughter and friends will attend the race.

“There’s always the hope that the home track advantage might come into play,” Hand said. “I’ve driven this track a lot, so I know it well. Dirk likes the track. We’ve got all the right things going for us; we just have to put it all together. It’s also really cool to see the fan engagement. People can see from the hill at the top of the Corkscrew and get up close in the paddock and see the cars. It’s a fun one for me.”

Hand and Mueller enter the weekend nine points behind GT Le Mans class championship leaders Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia of Corvette Racing.

They’ve won twice this year, at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen and at Lime Rock Park. Hand scored the first of Ford’s four poles this year on the streets of Long Beach back in April.

Teammates Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook have three wins, and sit second points only four back of Magnussen and Garcia.

Briscoe and Westbrook delivered the Ford GT its first worldwide victory at Monterey in 2016. A fuel mileage gamble paid dividends and revealed the economic excellence of the twin-turbo V6 Roush Yates EcoBoost engine. That set the stage for Ford’s run of three wins in a row that year.

Hand and Mueller will look to match their teammates on three wins this year. If they do, or if Briscoe and Westbrook win their fourth win of the year, Ford will have a 60 percent strike rate this year of six wins from 10 starts, and close on securing the manufacturer’s championship.

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Monday October 29, 2018