Hand Returns This Weekend with WeatherTech Championship to Mid-Ohio, Site of ‘Infamous’ Crash
Thursday, May 3, 2018
“I actually really like the place,” says Joey Hand of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which hosts the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the first time this weekend in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.
 
Hand’s not alone in his affection for Mid-Ohio, as many other drivers in the field share the No. 66 Ford GT driver’s sentiments about the 2.258-mile, 13-turn permanent road course situated in the rolling countryside of Lexington, Ohio. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if he felt differently, since Mid-Ohio was the site of a horrifying crash involving Hand during a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race there in 2006.
 
“Everybody said that made me ‘infamous,’” said Hand of the crash. Various YouTube videos of the incident have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
 
“Before that, I didn’t really know the difference between infamous and famous, but ‘infamous’ is what they said at Mid-Ohio,” Hand recalls. “I remember the wreck really well, the way it went down and what happened. I mean, the people that were there to help me – because I didn’t really walk away from it, I crawled away from it. I hit so hard and was stretched out so much that I couldn’t really move my limbs, so I kind of just crawled away.”
 
Hand also has vivid memories of the end-over-end crash itself.
 
“It’s just pretty wild, how we got into the infield, like my grandpa would say, ‘Ass over teakettle,’ and flipping 13 times,” he says. “I was just lucky. To dissipate energy that slowly actually was a better thing.
 
“People were like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s such a bad wreck.’ Well, it was, but you don’t want to hit stuff and stop really fast. I’ve done that before and that sucks even worse. It was a wild ride and I was awake for the whole thing.”
 
Fortunately, he managed to avoid major injury in the crash. Even better, the next year, Hand returned to Mid-Ohio and won a World Challenge race. Four years later, he won again at Mid-Ohio in the GRAND-AM GT class with Bill Auberlen in a Turner Motorsport BMW.
 
“I’ve won a couple of races there since, so it’s not all about the big wreck there for me at Mid-Ohio, thankfully,” Hand says. “It’s also about winning at Mid-Ohio.”
 
He’ll be looking to win again this weekend in the WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class alongside co-driver Dirk Mueller in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing entry. Hand, Mueller and the No. 66 team are currently tied for fourth in the GTLM standings, trailing their teammates, Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford GT, by nine points.
 
“I always feel like we’re in a good groove with the car,” Hand said. “Me and Dirk and John Hennek, our engineer, we’re in a good place. We find our way really well together. I’m excited about it. It should be a good weekend for us.”
 
He’s also excited to return to Mid-Ohio, which hasn’t hosted an IMSA race since 2013. It was a second “home track” for the California native, who lived in Ohio for three years when he raced in Toyota Atlantic for the Ohio-based DSTP Motorsports team.
 
Plus, he just loves this type of race track.
 
“Road America, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, VIR, we’re so fortunate to have these great American race tracks that are built on the topography of the land,” Hand says. “The ups and downs are from the hills that you’re standing on. They make for great racetracks. When I say, ‘racing,’ I mean the show for the fans. Like, it’ll be a great race, guaranteed.
 
“If I was a spectator or fan and I was going to, like, watch a race, I’d go there in a motorhome or camper or something and I would camp out. When you’re 100 feet from the racetrack, you’re in the woods. It’s like a really great campground. Then, you walk 100 feet and you watch race cars.”
 
Tickets for the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio are available now at MidOhio.com.
 
The two-hour, 40-minute race will be televised live on FS2 at 1 p.m. ET, with live IMSA Radio coverage also available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio. 

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