Valiant gallop through field ends in heartbreak in Denver Joey Hand ...
Valiant gallop through field ends in heartbreak in Denver
Joey Hand #27 DSTP Motorsports Toyota Swift 014.a
For most of Sunday's 37-lap race in Denver, Joey Hand looked like he would climb out of the abyss that had been his race weekend so far. However, while fighting for fifth place on the final lap around the 1.647-mile temporary street circuit, Hand's DSTP Swift 014.a sunk into the Turn 6 tire wall dropping him to a disappointing ninth place finish.
After struggling the entire weekend with setup issues, Hand started the Round 11 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race from eleventh place and was looking to extend his streak of top-five finishes to four. Up until the final lap of the race, the pieces were falling in place for Hand to land in the top-five once again.
Hand wasted no time climbing up the standings after Jonathan Macri and Kyle Krisiloff made contact that sent Krisiloff spinning in Turn 6. Hand capitalized on the miscue ducking under the pair to take over the ninth place spot where he would remain for the following 29 laps. It appeared that A.J. Allmendinger would walk off with the race win as the first 30 laps ran caution free. But on lap 30, Alex Figge made contact with the tire wall in Turn 6 bringing out the first of two yellow flags that were seen in the final stages of the race. Figge's contact not only moved Hand up to eighth place, but also allowed him to catch up to leaders under the slower yellow flag conditions.
On the wild lap 33 restart, Hand gained two more spots when Aaron Justus hit the tire wall in Turn 1. Hand swerved to the inside of the melee and picked up sixth place from Luis Diaz. The contact brought out the yellow flag again setting up a final lap shootout for the checkered flag.
The lap 37 restart saw a mad scramble for positions again as lap down cars were intertwined with the leaders. As the field sorted out down the long back straight heading into Turn 5, Hand began to pressure Danica Patrick for fifth place. Hand made the move for fifth heading down the straight towards Turn 6 by ducking inside of Patrick, with both cars playing a game of chicken into the corner. The speed that Hand carried into the inside line of the turn was too much for the car to handle as it slid into the tire wall damaging the front wing. Patrick slid past unscathed and continued on to take the fifth place spot. With the car crippled and the driver dejected, Hand crossed the line in ninth.
Allmendinger continued on to win the race while clinching the 2003 Championship title over Ryan Dalziel, who finished third. For the third straight race, Hand was one of the quickest cars on the track once the green flag dropped in the race. After posting the second and third fastest laps in Mid-Ohio and Montreal respectively, Hand followed it up with the third fastest race lap today with a time of 1:07.783 seconds (87.473 mph).
The ninth place finish earned Hand seven points in the Championship bringing his total to 98. Despite the unfortunate ending, Hand closed the gap in the Championship standings on fifth place, Aaron Justus, by four points and now trails him by 16 points heading into the final event. Hand stands sixth in the Championship holding a narrow five point margin over Danica Patrick in seventh.
DSTP Motorsports and Joey Hand will now have three weeks to prepare for one last shot at a win when the 30th season of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship holds its season finale on the streets of Miami, Florida on September 28th.
Speed Channel will re-broadcast the Round 11 race from Denver on Friday, September 5th, at 2:00 p.m. EST.
Hand on Sunday's Race:
"Well, it ended about like it started I guess--..not real good. It was all my fault this time. Like the previous races, the car was better in the race than it had been in practice and qualifying. I just tried to take advantage and get these guys something that they deserve. I was looking for fifth making quite a ballsy move inside of Danica (Patrick) on the last lap. I was not looking to finish sixth and I would rather put it in the fence than not try. Unfortunately, that is what happened. I think we surprised a few people on how well we came up through the field. The DSTP team gave me a good effort all weekend. They worked as hard as they could everyday as usual. I wish I could have finished the race off for them."