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Actor Dempsey Raced under Special Spotlight at IMS in Sports Cars

There have been many actors who have played race drivers, with some of the greatest names in Hollywood – from Clark Gable to Mickey Rooney to James Garner – all gaining fame from roles they played as the fearless men from behind the wheel. And then there are race car drivers who have been actors, as Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Jason Priestley have all competed in professional racing and acting.

Add Patrick Dempsey to that list as the driver who has gained fame from his role as Dr. Derek “Dr. McDreamy” Shepherd in “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as movie roles from “Can’t Buy Me Love” to “Loverboy” to “Sweet Home Alabama” to “Made of Honor” and “Valentine’s Day.” Dempsey is a team owner and driver in sports car racing, competing in GRAND-AM, the American Le Mans Series, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Dempsey Proton Racing also has competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Dempsey competed in the world’s most prestigious endurance race four times, with a best finish of second in the GTE Am class in 2015 with co-drivers Patrick Long and Marco Seefried.

“I’m accepted more in the paddock, and the team is growing and we are getting our credibility on the track,” Dempsey said in 2012. “I’d like to win more. It’s used to be fun just to show up, but now you want a good result and want to be in the top 10. But the series is so competitive, with some very talented drivers. If you are a half-second off, you are 25th-fast, so it is hard. I’m getting faster, but everybody else is getting faster, too.”

Dempsey drove No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA/ModSpace/Construct Corps/Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT in the inaugural GRAND-AM race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2012 during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard, also racing again at IMS in 2014. But that wasn’t his first experience with a race at IMS. From 2005-10, Dempsey was a co-owner of Vision Racing along with former Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and INDYCAR Founder Tony George, with Ed Carpenter as the driver.

Dempsey is the team owner along with Dempsey Racing business partner Joe Foster. The two first met when Foster was Dempsey’s racing school series instructor. In 2004, Dempsey had his first competitive driving experience with a three-day Skip Barber Racing School course that was a gift from his wife. In 2005, Dempsey’s racing competition began with the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, the Mazdaspeed Miata MX-5 Cup and the Panoz GT Series. He made five Continental Tire Series starts in 2006 before making his Rolex Series GT debut in 2007 at Miller Motorsports Park with Foster and Charles Espenlaub in the No. 40 Mazda’s first race. Dempsey also ran seven GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races, with a series career-best finish of sixth with Espenlaub at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

In 2008, Dempsey competed in nine Rolex Series GT races, earning a season-best result of ninth at Montreal with Foster. The following year, he finished a career-best sixth in Rolex Sports Car Series GT race at Mid-Ohio with Foster in the No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8. He also joined Foster and Don Kitch Jr. in a ninth-place GT2 finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2010, Dempsey joined Foster and teammates Espenlaub and Scott Maxwell for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, in which the No. 40 Mazda RX-8 GT finished sixth. The result was Dempsey Racing’s best Rolex 24 finish to that point and matched Dempsey’s previous career-best race finish. His racing was limited to just that contest because he was filming movies during the summer.

Dempsey continued his GRAND-AM improvement in 2011 when he joined Foster, Espenlaub and Tom Long with a career-best third in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. All four drivers led the race, including a career-high 28 laps led for Dempsey. 

Just as on-screen, Dempsey has a presence at the racetrack because he is the famous actor who is also a race driver.

“We always have a good turnout in our paddock,” Dempsey said. “People are always watching you, wanting to make sure you take the time for the fans who come out and say hello. It’s hard to get from Point A to Point B uninterrupted, but without their support, I wouldn’t be here. Certainly on test days when nobody is around, it’s a little more relaxed and you can let go and not worry about everyone. I try to be as respectful as possible and make sure everybody has a signature and photograph if they want it. It’s part of the deal.”

Away from the track, Dempsey enjoys road cycling and mountain biking.

“It’s a great way to get out and experience nature,” Dempsey said. “I grew up in a small town in Maine, so to me just to get out and have a walk in the woods is the nicest thing. I’m in Southern California now, but I always like to take a couple hours to get back to nature and really go out and take a walk in the woods.”

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