Joey Hand Interview: Ford GT Racer Talks Karting & More
Californian Joey Hand is a Ford factory driver and the current co-driver of the #66 Ford GT for Chip Ganassi Racing. He’s won the 2011 24 Hours of Daytona in Prototypes, the 2012 12 Hours of Sebring in the GT Class for BMW, and the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans LMGTE Pro class in the Ford GT on the 50th anniversary of the company’s first overall Le Mans win.
We had a chance to catch up with Joey, which is always fantastic considering he’s a great friend of ours and loves visiting his local K1 Speed to this day. We wanted to hear more about how he got started in karting, how much he does it today, and what advice he has for youngsters wanting to follow in his footsteps.
Here’s what he had to say:
“I started racing karts when I was 12 years old, and I remember being in the back of 40 kids. But it did escalate pretty quickly for me. I ended up getting sponsored by the end of the first year. And then it just took off fast. I won a lot of races, did a lot of traveling. My dad and I did it all ourselves, so we travelled all over the country racing, national events all sorts of stuff. I ran a karting school for many years up in Northern California and my own kart shop. All sorts of stuff.”
On Using K1 Speed as Racing Preparation
“I still go to K1 Speed today! I go to K1 Speed all the time. People don’t get it. Even when you go to K1 Speed and drive, everyone goes “oh, it can’t be as good as what you do” but man, I’m sweatin’, my arms are pumped, you’re still fighting the kart, and you’re still doing what we always do. Going to a K1 track like an indoor track like that would be like coming to Long Beach. You know, you have walls, you can’t see around the corners, so it has the same kind of feel. And in the racing world, as a driver, you can’t do a lot of exercises that really prepare you for racing. Right? So you can do CrossFit like I do, but when you get to go drive a go kart, you’re using the same stuff in your brain – your entry, apex, exit doing all that stuff. Always trying to drive as deep as you can. Always trying to get on the throttle as soon as you can. And all that stuff is the same. Whether you’re at K1, or if I’m doing outdoor karting with my son, or if I’m in my racecar, it’s all the same idea. So yeah, I kart as much as I can.”
Joey’s Advice for Pursuing Racing as a Career
“I have people ask me that all the time. It’s a tough world, racing now, to make to the top. The big thing I think is you need to first of all stay focused on what you want to do, but to really turn heads you need to win races. It’s that simple. You’re not going to be a major league baseball player if you can’t play the game. And racing is all about winning. And whatever anybody wants to say nowadays, this is a sport where, as Chip Ganassi always says, “hashtag I like winners”. Well, that means winning races is what he’s talking about. You’ve got to be able to perform under pressure. Whether that means a League race at K1 Speed, starting from the pole or starting from the back, or whatever you’ve got to do to get to the front, that’s what it’s all about.”
“I think everybody has a different ability of what they can race. Depending on can you afford to move up through karting, can you do shifter karts. Maybe you got a do a Local Option 206 class that doesn’t cost as much or whatever. But whatever level you can run at, it’s still the same idea, you still need to win if you want to move on to the next level. That’s how you get noticed. That’s all I did. My family didn’t have a lot of money to race me to the top. I just needed to win races, be able to talk in front of people a little bit, and that just kind of moved me on. Sponsors were like, “hey, we kinda like that guy. He gets it done on the track. He’s reasonably intelligent off the track (which, I fooled them!)” and that’s how you move on. It’s a tough world for sure. But racers are passionate people. Like you, like me, like all my crew guys. If you’ve been in racing for a long enough time, you’re passionate. Because it’s not for everybody, but most people that get into it get hooked on it. I think without that passion, you won’t be around long.”
You can catch Joey Hand racing next at the 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 12-13 on the Streets of Long Beach. And while you’re there, try karting for yourself on our outdoor track!