At this time last year, Joey Hand and the DSTP Motorsports team were heading into the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season opener in Monterrey, Mexico as the team to beat for the season ending trophy. After coming off a 2001 Rookie of the...
At this time last year, Joey Hand and the DSTP Motorsports team were heading into the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season opener in Monterrey, Mexico as the team to beat for the season ending trophy. After coming off a 2001 Rookie of the Year showing and third place position in points, there was no reason to believe otherwise. DSTP Motorsports had the inside line toward the 2002 Championship title.
Much has changed in a year since that opening event that saw Hand charge through a wet and wild race to claim his first and only podium of the season. Hand suffered a career threatening injury in a testing accident two months later; and although he returned to finish out the final five races of the season, the car was just not the same one that finished third in Mexico and carried Hand to a pole in the following event at Long Beach.
For the second straight year, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship will kick off its season in Monterrey, Mexico and although the perception is that the DSTP gang may not be one of the top dogs in the 2003 fight, the team itself believes otherwise. Owner, Dede Rogers and the rest of the DSTP Motorsports team believe they are every bit as good as they were last year entering the 2002 season opener and are determined to prove that the 2002 season was just a fluke.
The fact that Hand was able to finish on the Monterrey podium last year was amazing in its own right. The 2002 Monterrey race was the first time that the Atlantic Championship had ever raced on the slick 2.1-mile Fundidora Park road course. However, 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Champions, Dorricott Racing, had run the circuit the year before in Lights competition and came into town as the only team that really knew how treacherous the track could be. Their knowledge of the place showed quickly as Dorricott placed all three of the blue and white Swift 014.a machines in the top four on the starting grid. The only blemish was the yellow and purple DSTP/BG Products Swift 014.a of Joey Hand who claimed a front row starting spot along side of pole winner and home country favorite, Luis Diaz.
Over his short Atlantic career, Hand has shown to be one of the best at getting up to speed quickly on new tracks claming wins in 2001 on his first visits to street courses in Vancouver and Houston. The strong showing in qualifying at Monterrey in 2002 was just another chapter to Hand's accomplishments on first visits to new circuits.
Shortly before the start of last year's race, a burst of rain from a passing storm soaked the track setting up a frantic start to the season opener. Hand spun on the first lap after being struck from behind dropping him to 11th place. While climbing up through the field, Hand and Dorricott Racing's Alex Gurney made contact which severely damaged the front wing of Hand's car. Undeterred, Hand continued to blister through the field with the broken wing to finish in third.
"I think the biggest thing for us right now is the morale," said DSTP's Hand. "Testing went very well, much like last year before the season started and we earned a pole and a podium in the first two races before the accident. The guys have really worked hard over the winter fixing the issues from last season, and the results from testing proved it. I think many people have discounted us because of what happened last season. By the time the Mexico event is over, people will know that we will be a factor in each race." 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.