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USA Today via Reuters

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Joey Hand's dominating finish—Is he the secret weapon RFK Racing needed all along?

From 38th to fourth, Joey Hand braved the ever-changing track conditions and darkness to achieve his career best Cup Series finish at the Chicago Street Course. Driving a part-time entry for RFK Racing, known as Stage 60, Hand showed just how valuable diverse racing experience can be, leading seven laps on the temporary 2.2-mile street course, and winning Stage 2. It was just his eighth Cup Series start, but Hand ended the race as the top-placing Ford driver, much to the delight of his No. 60 team.

He may not have won the race, but Joey Hand was all smiles at the end, having put up a valiant fight to compete for a win. Something almost nobody would have predicted at the beginning of the race.

Joey Hand lets his experience shine in Chicago

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Joey Hand has been there and done that. The 45-year-old has a class victory and an overall victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race. His experience of driving in the rain comes from piloting Ford Multimatic Motorsports’ Ford Mustang GT3 in IMSA GTD PRO competition, which meant handling slick compared to wet tires and devising strategies for the changing track conditions were second nature. So, it should come as no surprise that when rain hit the track and created complete chaos, Joey Hand was there to capitalize on the opportunity.

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What was the key to Joey Hand's dominating finish in Chicago?

Driver skill

Team strategy

Car performance

Track conditions

In a video uploaded by NASCAR on Instagram, Joey Hand said in the post-race interview, “The cars don’t drive all the same, right? You got to hunt water, you got to hunt grip, you got to go hunt different lines. And that’s perfect because these guys drive these cars so much that when it’s all just like textbook, they can do it real good. I’m not saying they didn’t do a good job, but it allowed me to get up there and work my way through.

“With the water, you can give somebody a little nudge and you don’t have to move them into the wall. You can just give a little tap, get under him, tap, get under him. So, I used that to my advantage. But, just fun racing with these groups of drivers, groups of teams, and manufacturers. Super happy to be in a Ford Mustang Dark Horse. And lead. Win a stage. Who would have thunk it? I won a stage. I had a ton of fun. Super thankful.”

 

 

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It was not beyond the realm of possibility for Joey Hand to win the race in Chicago, having led seven laps until he was overtaken by the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Alex Bowman. Even though Hand is known to be better on road courses than street courses, his strategy was to remain on worn-out wet tires while the majority of the grid chose to pit, helping him climb up the positions. He was overtaken by Tyler Reddick and Ty Gibbs in the penultimate lap, finishing fourth. His previous best-ever finish was 20th at Sonoma Raceway in 2022.

Joey Hand’s performance in RFK Racing’s Stage 60 entry was also the best this season. Earlier this year, Supercars star Cam Waters raced in the Stage 60 entry at Sonoma Raceway, finishing 35th after being involved in a crash. David Ragan also raced in the car in the season-opening Daytona 500, finishing 20th. A victory in Chicago would have been the perfect underdog story for Joey Hand, and fans were all for seeing a shocking result at Grant Park 165.

Fans react to Hand’s performance in Chicago

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Joey Hand’s performance in Chicago caught the attention of fans, who took to social media to sing praises about the 45-year-old. Given the topsy-turvy nature of the race, fans were impressed by how Joey Hand navigated through the many challenges, despite his limited experience. A fan wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter), “Whoa, that was a wild ride! I love seeing sports car drivers like Joey Hand hold their own. The way he navigated those corners and accelerated out of them is impressive. It’s great.”

Given how Joey Hand impressed at Grant Park 165, one fan urged more sports car drivers to compete in NASCAR, particularly on road and street courses. Writing on X, the fan said, “Need more Sportscar drivers in Nascar road course/street course races. @JoeyHandRacing drove an outstanding race today ”. Another fan echoed the sentiment, having had his belief reinforced that sports car drivers can hold their own in NASCAR’s top tier. The fan wrote on X, “This is an absolutely insane drive by Joey Hand. Sports car guys can hang in NASCAR!”

With Alex Bowman going 80 races without a win in the NASCAR Cup Series, one fan took solace in the fact that it was the Hendrick Motorsports driver who overtook Joey Hand for the win. The fan said, “Man that would’ve been a very cool and very weird win. Been following his career for awhile. Alex beating him was the only ‘proper’ one I think. He really needed that win for his own confidence if anything.”

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Having led for 20 minutes (seven laps) during the race, it would have been the perfect underdog story for Joey Hand to secure a victory in Chicago. Despite finishing behind Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick and Ty Gibbs, one fan expressed his admiration for Joey Hand. The fan said, “I so wanted him to steal the W, but I’m so proud of him!”

What did you think of Joey Hand’s performance in Chicago? Let us know in the comments!