Mechanical gremlins knock hand from lead and ultimately the race. Total vindication will have to wait until Long Beach. Monterrey, Mexico (March 23, 2003) -- Joey Hand and DSTP Motorsports had been on a roll all weekend long in Monterrey, Mexico...
Mechanical gremlins knock hand from lead and ultimately the race.
Total vindication will have to wait until Long Beach.
Monterrey, Mexico (March 23, 2003) -- Joey Hand and DSTP Motorsports had been on a roll all weekend long in Monterrey, Mexico leading the first three sessions and never placing no worse than third in the rest. Expectations were high for a victory at the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season opener for good reason, but a mechanical failure early in the race dashed the hopes for a team that felt like they were the car to beat on Sunday.
After a yellow start, the field took the green flag with Hand on the outside of the front row knowing the opening moments of the race would be critical to his chances to win. Opportunity presented itself quickly when A.J. Allmendinger and pole winner, Luis Diaz, made contact heading into the first turn.
"The start went pretty much as I planned," said Hand. "I felt like I was going to get pushed to the outside so I prepared for it and when they came bombing down to the inside I just let them slide by and Allmendinger ran into the back of Diaz and chugged them even further off course. So I just let them go and turned in and went about my business. It worked out just as I hoped it would which is unusual on a start."
Hand pulled out to a fairly large lead on Lap 5, but that would be the last lap Hand would be able to pace the field. While leading the fifth lap of race, Hand radioed his crew informing them of a problem with the car and it was not at full power. By the next lap, Hand had surrendered the lead to eventual race winner, Michael Valiante, with a field of hungry drivers nipping at his heels. With the problem beginning to become terminal, Hand sadly pulled the car into the pits and retired from the race completing only nine of 32 laps and posting a 15th place finish.
"After Luis and A.J. went off we were in check out mode," continued Hand. "I was going to really try to throw down some good numbers and we were. We were checking out big time. They had nothing for us. The car was very fast. About the finish of that first lap, I started feeling something bad with the gearbox. I don't know what happened yet for sure, but it looks like we had something go terminal in the gearbox or drive line."
The DSTP team will pack up and get ready for the next event in Long Beach where they have been competitive every season, knowing they were the car to beat in Monterrey. The sting of Sunday's race is still fresh, but the whole crew is determined to put it behind them and concentrate on being the fastest car in Long Beach as well. This time, they hope to finish the deal with a spot on top of the podium.
"The car was as fast as this crew worked this weekend," said a determined Hand. "The guys put in some long and late nights and the DSTP guys gave me a great race car. I'm super happy with the engineering on the car with Kent Stacy and Bud Wilkinson. We absolutely had the fastest car in every session and when we didn't, we were darn close to it. It was just too bad that it had to go this way but that is racing sometimes at its finest."
Through DSTP Motorsports, Dede Rogers has established herself as a true believer in promoting talented young American drivers into professional racing. Formed in 1994, DSTP first campaigned a team in the Dodge Shelby Pro Series before moving into the U.S. F2000 National Championship in 1995. Such notable drivers as Memo Gidley, Alex Barron, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Jerry Nadeau competed in cars fielded by DSTP before Buddy Rice swept to the Atlantic title during DSTP Motorsports first season in the series in 2000.