What’s Next for Joey Hand?
By David Ray, www.hookedondriving.com
With thanks for the hospitality of the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the BMWCCA, I was invited to participate in the club’s annual banquet. This year, they were high as kites (on very legal adrenaline) about their “local boy made good” Joey Hand, a pro BMW driver who has escalated the professional sports car driving ladder and now has a solid grasp on the top wrung. Even with a harrowing travel schedule and a family with small kids at home, Joey joined the group gladly, and is truly a genuine young man who everyone immediately likes. He tells it like it is, and shows professionalism blended with passion for his chosen profession. This year, he pulled off quite a feat as a winning driver for the team Chip Gannassi at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, in the Daytona Prototype rocket ship as a part of a driver team led by none other than Scott Pruett. Then a few weeks later, he turned around, hopped in his regular Rahal Letterman Racing BMW M3 with Dirk Mueller, and Andy Priaulx and took the GT Class honors as well – the Florida two-peat. This is rare occurrence especially for a driver who, while he’s no rookie, Joey is an “up and comer” who now has apparently “arrived!”
But this is not the real story here – old news, if you will. What we discovered during our chat over dinner was a very cool secret that he revealed to us: Joey’s team – as it was for Sebring – is hopping the plane soon for the country of France, and a race called Le Mans!! This is the top rung of the ladder – the race that all professional sports car drivers dream of driving in. Not only does he have a ride – this ride has a chance of being the favorite to win right off the bat. Indicating the confidence of this very engaging young man, he’s coined the phrase “the Hand Slam” to include Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans. So he not only is in the show, but has in a very friendly way stated to the competition, “Watch your mirrors – we’re coming to win!”
Our evening with Joey was a delight. He is in many ways still like a kid – you could believe that he is a rookie until you take a look at his resume. But he still talks about his kids and family – his karting business in Sacramento – and comes to his local BMW club’s chapter events without any hesitation.
We talked about many things and I’ll give a few bullets here:
It’s dicey to go to the restroom when it’s your turn to drive next in an endurance race. Twice during the Sebring race he was caught “indisposed” whilst his radio blared – “Hand to the pits!” – car coming in with tire down….or “Yellow flag, Hand to the pits.” We’re told that after this happened twice he just decided to not go there….
The new gearbox and shifter combination in the M3 is sweet. They’ve gone from the floor mounted stick sequential box where you bang forward or pull back for up and downshifts - to the F1 style paddles – Joey LIKES the paddles! His description of the paddles and speed of the gearbox tells the story of a fundamental change in skills. No longer is the heel/toe footwork a critical factor. There is much less commotion in the driver’s seat physically. He makes funny “blip” noises to describe how quickly this car shifts. Now, the focus is on driving the perfect lap every time – a bit more like a video game. Ironically though, with these technological transitions, the top drivers continue to be the top drivers. And the mid-pack drivers seem to still be the mid-pack drivers. So it appears that technology is not threatening to take away driver’s skill as a factor in the race – just elevate the art as well as the performance of the cars.
He noted that his main preparation for Le Mans is driving this course on the Gran Turismo video game at home! He seemed non-plussed when asked about learning this legendary course. Joey is not fazed by learning new courses.
When asked about this year’s BMW and its chances in the ALMS GT class, he was confident that the BMW would once again be a very competitive package….it seems the car is strong, and one of their chief concerns is the imposition of a restrictor or added weight that could come with too much early success. This is a good thing to be worrying about. He also acknowledged that our HOD friend Johannes van Overbeek teamed with Scott Sharp in the Patron Ferrari was a very serious threat. And that he has a lot of respect for Johannes as a professional and over-all good guy…things we already knew!
Joey is the all-American young man. When he talks about his up and coming endeavor in Europe, he speaks proudly of being the only American driver on the BMW team.
Joey Hand with cake celebrating Sebring and Daytona victories
When asked about the massive party that was held by the team in Sebring after the race, he loudly exclaimed that he and Bill Auberlen were back in the condo they rent for the week and it was a team party that was held without them. He seems to be a very disciplined and focused person – ordering the sane item on the menu of Cattleman’s while all of us indulged.
Joey speaks well to a crowd and enjoys it. Without notes he shared his experiences and perspectives and was a delight for the crowd of BMW enthusiasts. We wish Joey good luck this season, and in his future career moves to solidify his position as one of the top professional sports car racers in the world.
Note: We’d like to thank Pat Dewitt, the stalwart SVBMWCCA member who is dedicated to teaching the appreciation of sports car racing, and who generously invited me to represent HOD at the dinner.