Victory for Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller on Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park continued a hot summer stretch for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing outfit.
Hand and Mueller, in their No. 66 Ford GT, previously won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 1. Teammates Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, winners of the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January, also won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 8.
Combine all of that with the Hand/Mueller victory at Lime Rock Park last weekend, and it’s three wins in a row for Ford and Ganassi.
And Saturday’s win was particularly dramatic, as Hand had to close down a gap of 12 seconds to then leader Jan Magnussen, in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R For Corvette Racing.
Hand managed to get onto Mangussen’s back bumper as they worked through GT Daytona (GTD) traffic, and then had to outduel him in the final laps.
But, when Magnussen drifted wide onto the grass exiting the final corner, it was all Hand needed to seize control of the lead, and he cruised to victory from there.
“It’s just amazing,” said Hand after Saturday’s victory. “We knew (Lime Rock) was going to be about being around at the end. We knew tire longevity was going to be key here, and you have to be impressed with Michelin and our tires. They went the distance when we needed them to because I was 12 seconds down there, and that set of tires, we were hard on them. I could see I was reeling him in (No. 3 Corvette). He was struggling in traffic and I was making some moves in traffic that were really aggressive, including getting in a full-on battle with the leading GTD cars. It’s the last stint and you have no choice.”
Mueller was equally as elated, particularly of what the win means in terms of the championship standings, a point he was sure to highlight.
“This Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team just impresses me, weekend to weekend,” said Mueller. “It’s such a big family. It’s great. I feel a little bad for (Westbrook and Briscoe in the No. 67), since they had a little trouble there today, but this win means so much to me and the team. It’s our first overall win as a team, and a big win in terms of the championship. ”
Indeed, Saturday’s win proved to be very significant in the GTLM title chase, as it vaulted Hand and Mueller into the GTLM lead. However, it is only by one point over Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, and their Ford/Ganassi teammates Westbrook and Briscoe are only one further point back in third.
In short, three points separate the top three in GTLM leaving Lime Rock Park. A Corvette lineup has won the last two GTLM driver’s championships, but three wins in a row, and four on the season, leave Ford and Ganassi poised with a pair of efforts in position to dethrone them.