Monkey be gone; hand places first podium of season in Portland. Joey Hand ...
Monkey be gone; hand places first podium of season in Portland.
Joey Hand #27 DSTP Motorsports Toyota Swift 014.a
The success had been a long time coming for DSTP Motorsports and their driver, Joey Hand. It had been well over a year since he had sprayed champaign on CART Toyota Atlantic Championship victory podium, but on a cold and wet day at the 1.969-mile Portland International Raceway, Hand held on to a hard fought runner-up finish to keep his 2003 Championship hopes alive.
Hand's last podium came as a third place showing at the 2002 season opener in Monterrey, Mexico. After missing six races in 2002 due to injuries sustained in a testing accident at the Milwaukee Mile, Hand had struggled to get back to the top of the field. 2003 has seen Hand and DSTP with a variety of bad luck, but the Portland performance seemed to be the key to turn the season around and finally get the monkey off of the team's back.
After holding down the fifth spot on the grid after Friday's provisional qualifying, Hand was able to improve his position to third during Saturday morning's final qualifying session with a time of 1:06.362 seconds (106.814 mph). The time was just shy of Ryan Dalziel's first place track record time of 1:06.204 seconds (107.069 mph).
The drama for the afternoon's 35-lap race started well before the green flag ever flew. As it had done all weekend long, rain showers continued to pass the track throughout the day leading up to the 4:00 p.m. PST scheduled start. As the teams placed their cars on a wet front straight grid, Atlantic officials called for a dry race, meaning it was up to each team on what kind of tires they would start the race on, either racing slicks or treaded rain tires.
The chess game was on before the start your engines command was ever given. With the front row cars of Dalziel and A.J. Allmendinger and the other second row car of Luis Diaz showing rain treads on, DSTP Engineer, Kent Stacy, glanced at the sky and made the agonizing decision to start the DSTP Swift 014.a on the dry racing slicks. Shortly after, Dalziel's team made the same change. It turned out that Stacy had made a great call as the field rolled out of the pits. As Hand started touring around the track for the first of two pace laps, he called in over the radio stating that most of the rest of the track was already dry. Before the drop of the green flag, Allmendinger and Diaz would be called in to the pits by their teams for the dry tires as well, moving Hand up to second before the race had even started.
Hand would be in front of a first lap, second turn spin involving Alex Figge and Jonathan Macri and set his sights on the leader, Dalziel. But the day belonged to Dalziel and Hand spent the rest of the race with Michael Valiante and A.J. Allmendinger trying to chase him down. With a light rain beginning to fall in the closing laps, Hand was able to hold off Valiante to grab his best finish of the season. Dalziel would cruise on to win by 14.420 seconds while Hand finished ahead of Valiante by .517 seconds.
For the first time in 2003, Hand gained ground in the Championship hunt. Hand entered the Portland race weekend 43 points behind leader, A.J. Allmendinger. But with today's second place performance, Hand climbed to seventh place from tenth in the Championship and closed the points lead on Allmendinger to 39 points. Hand possesses a total of 40 points heading into the Round 6 race in Cleveland.
The team is now heading back to their home race in Cleveland which takes place in two weeks at the Burke Lakefront Airport where Hand finished second at in 2001. The Round 6 race will mark the half-way point of the 2003 Championship and Hand and DSTP will continue to scratch and claw their way back into the Championship hunt.
Hand on Saturday Qualifying:
"We had a good car for qualifying and I thought I had it. The car ran out of fuel on the final lap right when I was putting down my best lap. We are right there and I feel pretty good for the race."
Hand on Saturday Race:
"It just feels right. It's where I want to be, and where the team deserves to be. That's the biggest thing. This team gives me a good race car every week, and I'm fortunate to be here because of my owner, Dede Rogers, and DSTP. We just go after it every time. We've had some bad races since my testing crash last year in Milwaukee. We've pulled through, the team's stayed strong, and we've been looking to get back on the podium. We knew we would work our way up. This is, I think, just the start of a good run for us."
"As far as the weekend goes, we came out of the trailer a little quicker than most really knew, because we didn't get a good run in the practice session as far as lap times goes. We were pretty good. I think that the race went good. We kind of thought it might rain a little more in the race, so we went with kind of a medium rain/dry setup as far as the shocks and stuff go. It didn't really rain as much, so I struggled a little bit in the race. I just worked on the sway bars in the car and all of the adjustments I could to make the car as fast as I could at the time. Even not been totally up to par, the car was fast enough to get second. I'm pretty happy with that."
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.