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  • Joey Hand out due to Flu Like Symptoms, Sébastien Bourdais to fill in
  • After IMSA’s two toughest endurance races – Rolex 24 At Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring – Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA series Ford GTs head to streets of Long Beach for 100-minute sprint race
  • Team finished 2nd and 3rd at Long Beach in 2018, and looks to reach top step of podium
  • California native Joey Hand unfortunately has flu like symptoms and is unable to compete; endurance teammate Sébastien Bourdais to step in

LONG BEACH, Calif., April 10, 2019–After punishing battles in the first two races of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA team has to switch gears and prepare for the shortest event of the calendar this weekend with the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix on the famous street course of Long Beach.

Instead of a 24-hour battle at Daytona, or a 12-hour fight on the bumps of Sebring, the team will sprint its way through a 100-minute race on the tight Long Beach street course, where concrete walls can end a race quickly.  It definitely will be a change of pace for the veteran team, but it’s still a victory every driver wants to add to his resume.

“There’s no question that Long Beach is one of those IMSA races that every manufacturer and team wants to win,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports.   “Long Beach is the iconic street course race in America, with a great history and a tough, unforgiving course.   We also like it because, unlike so many of the endurance races we run, this is a sprint event that puts added emphasis on being aggressive both with strategy and with driving.  We have gotten better there every year with our Ford GTs, so we hope this is the year we’re at the top of the podium.”

The current Ford GT team came close to victory in Long Beach last year, with the No. 67 Ford GT team of Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Westbrook finishing runner-up, and the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller taking third.

Hand, however, unfortunately is unable to compete in this year’s race.  Sébastien Bourdais, who won Le Mans with Mueller and Hand in 2016 and is a regular endurance teammate with the duo, will step in for the California native.

“Although we’re disappointed for Joey, we’re also fortunate to have someone like Sébastien who can step right in this weekend,” said Rushbrook.  “We grateful Dale Coyne Racing will allow him to do double-duty with the IndyCar race this weekend. Seb already has so many miles in the Ford GT, and knows the team and crew so well, that it’s the perfect solution.”

Mueller and Hand currently are fourth in the drivers’ championship standings, with Westbrook and Briscoe seventh.  Ford currently sits third in the manufacturers’ standings, five points out of first.

“There’s a lot of prestige in winning at Long Beach because of the great history of the event, but there’s no doubt that it’s very different than most of the races we run because it’s a sprint race,” said Briscoe.  “You wouldn’t think there is much strategy that goes into such a short race, but there really is because with only one scheduled stop, you need to time it perfectly for both fuel and tire wear.

“There’s a lot of additional pressure for a driver, not just because the walls are unforgiving, but because there’s no room for errors as a team.  Fortunately, we have the best in the business with the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing guys, so we are looking forward to getting a win this weekend.”

“Long Beach is such a fantastic race, but it’s unlike most of the races we run during the year because it’s less than two hours long and there’s no room for mistakes,” said Mueller.

Both drivers have to be on top of their game during the race, and strategy is so important.  We’re fortunate to have not just a fantastic car in the Ford GT, but also some great people who help us call the race.  I can’t wait to get out there.”

The BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix begins Saturday, April 13, with coverage beginning at 4:30 pm ET on NBCSN domestically, internationally.