Former Le Mans winner set for NASCAR debut at Charlotte Roval

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Longtime sports car veteran Joey Hand will drive the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Ford in his NASCAR Cup Series debut this Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

The 42-year-old Hand has earned wins in some of racing’s biggest events, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2016, GTE-Pro class). He has also been victorious in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (2011 – overall, 2017 – GT Le Mans class), and 12 Hours of Sebring (2011 and 2012 – GT class).

Hand’s 2016 Le Mans win and 2017 Rolex 24 class win came as part of Ford’s former GT program with Chip Ganassi Racing.

The program ran from 2016-2019 across the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship, earning 19 wins.

“We value everything that Joey contributed to our GT program and have tried to keep him involved in our motorsports program ever since as a coach for our NASCAR drivers and as a product ambassador for the Ford GT,” said Ford Performance Motorsports global director Mark Rushbrook in a Tuesday release.

“We view Joey as being one of the best road racers in the world and appreciate NASCAR working with us to get him approved for competition this weekend. We’re confident he’s going to do a great job. He has great respect for the sport and the competitors in NASCAR.”

As for Hand, he said in the release that NASCAR’s fender-banging style of racing suits him because “I almost thrive in situations where I’ve got a little damage and the car shouldn’t be fast, but you find a way to drive around it.”

He continued: “I’ve always felt that’s the way NASCAR was because if a fender gets damaged, they tape it up and keep going. It’s like a fight to the death and that’s my style. That’s what has always attracted me to NASCAR.”

Hand is set to become the fourth different driver to make their Cup debut for Rick Ware Racing this season. The group includes USAC star Chris Windom (Bristol dirt), fellow sports car driver Ryan Eversley (Road America), and open-wheel driver RC Enerson (Watkins Glen).

“I come from a road racing background and have followed Joey’s career forever, so it’s very exciting to be able to have another driver make their Cup Series debut with RWR, especially with someone of his stature,” said team owner Rick Ware in the release.

“This is a good chance for us to see where our program is at when it comes to road courses, and having someone of Joey’s caliber will serve as a good benchmark for sure.”