Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team's Joey Hand qualifies fourth at Laguna Seca

AJR Header Image MONTEREY, Calif. - As the defending race champions from a year ago, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team looks to defend its title after Joey Hand, of Sacramento, Calif., qualified fourth for Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Rum 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Early in the 15-minute DP qualifying session, Hand was mired in 12th position when the session was black flagged to remove the No. 16 DP from the gravel. Once the No. 16 was removed, the session resumed with only six minutes remaining. This meant that Hand had to work quickly to put the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype in the top-10.

On his first flying lap after the black flag, Hand turned the fourth quickest time. But, that time did not last long as he drop four spots. On his ninth and final lap, he turned his top time of 1:20.318 (100.311 mph), which will put him on the outside of row two for tomorrow's Round Five race.

"My qualifying session should have been a little bit better than it was," Hand said. "I guess you can't have everything all at once. This car came out of the trailer as good as it's been all year, which is a big deal on these short weekends when you have very little practice time. But, it [being fast out of the trailer] has put us in the mix. We are making fine-tune adjustments rather than whole-sale changes. This means we are going to be 'racey' this weekend.

"We decided to have me qualify, although Bill [Auberlen] has been super fast. But, we wanted to put Bill in to finish the race to make sure he is the guy that can get it done. There was more out there. I made a mistake early in my second [qualifying] lap in the Corkscrew. Then, there was a black flag. And, when I got back out there, I wasn't getting it going. The car is so much better and faster [than it has been] that you've got to really trust it. You've got to throw it into the corners and let it stick. We've been so used to this car being diabolical on us that we could never trust it. Now, I got a lot more trust in this car. I think we are getting dangerous now. I tell everybody every week that we are going to be a threat and now we are. I think we're going to be good here. If I can keep it in fourth and then hand it off to Bill and let him do his magic that would be great. He is the master in any racecar and nobody will get by him."

"I am really happy with Joey," Team Engineer Greg Fordahl said of Hand's qualifying effort. "This is sort of Joey and Bill's home track, so I expected him to be strong here. I know he knows the secrets of Laguna Seca. So, I was pretty sure that he would turn in a good performance and he did. He had a black flag on his best lap and he came back strong on the very next lap. He put down a time we needed. So, we're pretty happy."

Fordahl will run the team this weekend due to Team Owner Alex Job's absence. Job is at home in Florida recovering from a motorcycle accident two weeks ago where he sustained some injuries.

"I am pleased with my team's performance today," Job said from home. "They did an excellent job to put the car on the second row. I really wish I could be there to enjoy it with them this weekend."

Currently, Auberlen and Hand are sixth in the Daytona Prototype driver point standings with 90 points (47 points behind the point leaders), while the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team is sixth in the Daytona Prototype team point standings also with 90 points.

-credit: ajr