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08.16.13

Patrick Dempsey - A True Racer

ALMS - RacingNation.com Story

Jack Webster / racingnation.com

"When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting."

That line, which was uttered by Steve McQueen as Michael Delaney in the classic racing film "Le Mans" pretty much sums up Patrick Dempsey when it comes to racing.

Dempsey just competed in the American Le Mans race at Road America this past weekend, and the dedication it took on his part just to race there should not be underestimated. The guy plays a key character on the hit television show "Grey's Anatomy" and after putting in a grueling week working on the set, caught a red-eye flight to Milwaukee on his way to Elkhart Lake to race in the American Le Mans race in his Porsche 911 GT3. Due to work commitments, he wasn't able to get to the track until Friday and prior to the race only had the opportunity to spend less than one hour behind the wheel. Despite this, he started the race in the rain, did a very credible job of driving in challenging conditions and his car ended up finishing 4th in class. Overall, not a bad weekend.

Throughout the years, celebrity race drivers have come and gone from the racing scene. In particular, they seem to be drawn to sports car racing. One can name Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Craig T. Nelson and James Garner among those who have been drawn to sports car racing over the years.

I think that with Patrick Dempsey you have the real deal here. I have had some experience dealing with celebrity drivers, having handled actors Lorenzo Lamas, Perry King and ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard back in the late 1980's in my position as team manager for the Porsche Fabcar Camel Lights Team.

You have to give these guys a lot of credit for exposing themselves to the real world or professional motorsport. They have all come from a background where people are constantly telling them how great they are, regardless of the real circumstances surrounding their latest acting project. It takes a lot of guts to go from your comfort zone where people are always telling you how great you are to the real world of professional motorsports, where results and time charts tell the real story for the whole world to see. In racing, you have to earn the respect of your peers.

I recall how Lorenzo Lamas would do something similar to Patrick Dempsey when he was racing our Porsche Fabcar - he would take the red-eye flight out of Los Angeles after working 12 to 16 hours days all week to meet the team in Daytona, Miami, Sebring or wherever to get behind the wheel of a car that he didn't have the opportunity to get comfortable with and then be expected to drive the wheels off of it and do well in the race. On top of that, because of who he was and how well he was known, he had to constantly deal with media requests for photos and interviews, interact with hundreds (and what at times seemed like thousands) of fans who wanted to shake his hand, get an autograph or a photo for Aunt Suzie back home! In the case of Lamas, since he always seemed to be getting married to a different blond every other year, he also had to deal with the tabloid press like the National Enquirer as well.

That is why I give a lot of credit to Patrick Dempsey as a driver. He is dead serious about his racing and has even said that if possible, he would drop acting in a minute to go racing full time.

You see, the allure of motorsport is that it is real. The people who participate are real. The drivers are real. The crew guys are real. Celebrities are drawn to the sport because it is an opportunity for them to be judged for their racing accomplishments - they are part of the racing community, no questions asked. Everybody knows that they are here to race - they expect no special treatment whether on or off the track. Other racing insiders will go out of their way to make them feel welcome, to help them. It affords them the opportunity to be accepted into the motorsports community - a tight knit group, a second family, a true "Band of Brothers".

Keep your eye on Patrick Dempsey in the future. He is a true racer, in the mold of Steve McQueen, who has a great driving career ahead of him. He has raced in both the Grand Am and American Le Mans series. He has raced and finished at Le Mans twice. Hopefully, he can balance the acting gig with driving, so as not to deprive his many fans of viewing his many talents, both on the track and on the screen.

Be sure not to miss Patrick's new racing mini-series documentary "Racing Le Mans", which debuts on the Velocity Network on August 28. It has to be a 'must see" for racing fans.

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  • Patrick Dempsey, Photo: Jack Webster
  • Patrick Dempsey, Photo: Jack Webster

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