Hand Recounts Events Surrounding Spectacular Crash at Mid-Ohio

No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3 driver Joey Hand, who was involved in a spectacular, end-over-end crash while battling for the lead with Paul Edwards in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R late in Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, was released from Mansfield/MedCentral Hospital at 12:40 a.m. ET.

All x-rays and CAT-scans were negative, and Hand was back at Mid-Ohio on Sunday morning as teams made final preparations for the Grand-Am Cup 200 on Sunday afternoon. Hand was scheduled to co-drive the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 with Anders Hainer, but will be replaced in the car by Nic Jonsson. What follows below is Hand's account of the accident itself and its aftermath. Saturday's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve EMCO Gears Classic airs on SPEED Channel this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Q: How did the incident happen?

HAND: I was leading, obviously, and we came up on some lapped cars and we went two or three wide. I went to the inside and kind of got held up on my run off the Keyhole (Turn 2). I went to the inside and Edwards got a run on me. I defended way to the inside, right to the grass, and he never took his foot out of it. He got into my right rear and kind of lifted the car up a bit. I got a little wheelspin and it turned me into the infield.

It was no problem, I got the car straightened out and it was all good, but there's a crossover road in the middle of the track that is new. It has a really big elevation change to the road from the grass and when I hit that, the car got launched and scooped the nose. It went really high and it landed nose-first, missed the tail, then nose-first, missed the tail, like, eight times or something.

I was conscious for the whole thing. I felt every one. I mean, I was sure I was going to be badly hurt. I was like, 'Oh, this is bad.' My big concern was--I thought, 'The worst thing that can happen to me is to get hit by another car sliding across the track upside down.' That's what I was really worried about.

When it was all said and done, I came to a stop upside down. I was still in the seat, and the first thing I noticed was my right shoe was off. I blew my right shoe off and my right glove somehow. I unbuckled myself and fell down out of the car onto the roof. There was fuel running down my back and into the roof of the car, and oil and stuff. The corner workers were yelling to get out of the car because it was going to catch fire, and I couldn't get out because my HANS device was stuck in the window net, and the window was smaller than normal.

I went back in and tried to get my helmet off and then they called me back out again, and then they finally got me out with my HANS and everything on. I just climbed out and laid against the wall. We were too close to the car, still, so they dragged me up the way and worked on me from there.

Right now, I'm just pretty lucky, I think. When I was hitting every time, I thought it was sure that I was going to have broken legs and arms and stuff. But right now, all I've got is a badly-bruised right elbow and really sore back and neck, left foot, right groin and things like that hurt.

All-in-all, I can walk up and down pit lane and I really did not think I was going to be walking. I didn't think I'd walk out of the hospital last night, for sure. I got out of the hospital at about 1:00 in the morning and went straight to Steak 'n Shake and got myself a chocolate shake and a double Steak 'n Shake burger with fries and chili.

Q: What was going through your mind when all of this was happening?

HAND: I can remember vividly the first two or three landings, but it knocked the wind right out of me. Every hit was just hurting. I could feel the belts and I was just way up in the belts. Absolutely the main thing going through my mind was I was worried I was going to get hit by another car. That's what I was worried about.

I'm just glad all the guys behind me were smart enough to get it whoaed-down and they missed all the wreck. Nobody clipped me again. Otherwise, I was just assessing the situation. I've been in a lot of wrecks, unfortunately. Well, not a lot, but a couple big ones, and when that stuff is happening you kind of assess the situation quickly.

I moved my legs; I knew I was okay there. Since I already have a back issue, I figured, 'Well, hopefully my back doesn't get hurt again.' I moved my feet, and I was good. I noticed I didn't have a right shoe, and that was kind of intriguing to me. I knew that my groin area was hurting, because when I came to a stop, I was hanging by my sub belts and my lap belts, pretty much.

After that, the first thing I started thinking was, 'Hey, this feels like fuel and oil. This is going to catch fire. I need to get out of here.' The window net was still up, I mean, it was just a mess to get out. Then, you start panicking. Fire makes you panic, and that's obviously the worst thing for any race car driver is fire. I thought, 'Boy, this would be icing on the cake. Wreck huge and then catch on fire and burn to the ground.'

When it was all said and done, people were asking me, 'Am I upset about the whole deal?' Well, yeah. I was winning the race in a car that nobody thought could win, with a team that didn't think it could win. Everybody came through, the pit stops were good, the strategy was great, (co-driver) Chris (Gleason) did a great job, and we had a chance to win the GT class for the first time this year in a BMW, and it just got turned around. It really is a racing incident.

The only thing I could say about Paul Edwards is that I wouldn't have drove it in there, I would have lifted. But when it's all said and done, I was defending my line, he was trying to pass, there's two laps to go or whatever, and it was pretty much a racing incident. But I would not have done it to him.

Q: What do you think prevented really serious injuries from happening to you?

HAND: Number one, right from the get-go, BMW Motorsport builds these cars with a roll cage in them. They come to PTG that way, and then PTG reinforces and does even more stuff to them. Number one, I think the guys at PTG, the fabricators, especially James Stevens, I know for a fact that I'm going to give him a hug, because these guys weld this cage together and it withstood a wreck it shouldn't have withstood as far as everybody's concerned.

That's a big thing, and also the preparation by the Connolly guys. I mean, the belts stayed intact, the seats stayed intact and all the safety equipment stayed intact. If you don't have that stuff, you don't survive or you don't come out walking away. The preparation from PTG to Connolly is probably what saved me.

Q: What about the HANS Device?

HAND: That's number two for me and the HANS Device. That's the second time the HANS Device saved me. They said there's no way I could have survived the impacts without the HANS Device. It saved me again. In (a Toyota Atlantic car at) Milwaukee it saved me and here it saved me. I won't drive without it if I have a chance. Not many people can say that they hit hard enough to have a HANS Device save them twice. Whatever, we'll go on.

Q: Were you scared?

HAND: This was probably the most scared I've been, when I was thinking I was going to catch fire. That's a really bad thing. Otherwise, I wasn't that scared. I think I'm pretty good at surviving. I always tell my wife, 'The key is to survive, right?' Survival came into account immediately.

I was like, 'I've got to get out of here.' As soon as I came to a stop, I was like, 'Forget it, if I've got a broken leg or whatever, I'll drag myself out of here.' A lot of stuff didn't feel good, but I was like, 'It doesn't matter at this point. My arms are working and I'm going to drag myself out of this car somehow. I don't want to burn to the ground with it.' At that point, I was a little bit scared. I panicked a little bit.

But then, once I got out, I was like, 'I'm good. At this point, I'm good.' That was until they wanted to Life Flight me because they thought I had internal injuries. Then, I started thinking, 'Do I have internal injuries? I don't know. Maybe I do feel something.' I had an IV in both arms and was just going crazy.

Then they cut all my clothes off, which, everything was by procedure and I want to thank all the people out there, because they were right on the spot. They did everything right as far as I'm concerned. They cut all my clothes off and then they hosed me down with a fire hose (out of concern that he was soaked in fuel), which I thought was the funniest thing of the whole deal. I was laying out there, butt naked, hosing down 200 gallons of water with a fire hose in the rocks.

Q: How do you feel this morning?

HAND: This morning, I didn't take any Motrin or anything, which is what they prescribed me, and I've got pretty big back and neck pain. My right elbow, my right groin, I'm pretty much just sore everywhere. Really, my head's feeling better and everything feels fine. I had no concussion. I was cleared on the CAT-scan. There were no problems on the CAT-scan and no problems on x-rays. I'm good to go, but I'm not going to race today in the Grand-Am Cup race. The doctor there cleared me for next week.

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