Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GTs Ready to Build on Past Success at Barber Motorsports Park This Weekend
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 6, 2011) – Returning to a “home” track that has been successful for both the team and its drivers, Dempsey Racing, its pair of potent Mazda RX-8 GTs and lead drivers Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, James Gué and Dane Cameron will roll into Barber Motorsports Park this weekend for Round 3 of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series this Saturday, April 9, at 3 p.m. CT. Saturday’s 2-3/4-hour timed sprint race on the scenic Barber circuit will air the following day on SPEED, Sunday, April 10, in a three-hour show beginning at Noon ET/9 a.m. PT.
Dempsey and Foster are entered as co-drivers of the Dempsey Racing No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA/ModSpace/Construct Corps Mazda RX-8 GT while Gué and Cameron will share Dempsey Racing’s No. 41 Team Seattle/Global Diving & Salvage Mazda RX-8 GT. Dempsey Racing team headquarters is located in the Atlanta area, just a few hours away from Birmingham, and all of the drivers but team owner Dempsey himself live in the Peach State. Dempsey resides in Los Angeles primarily because of what he calls his Hollywood “day job,” but even he admits to having a soft spot for Barber Motorsports Park.
“Barber was one of the first tracks where Joe and I raced when I was just starting in GRAND-AM, I have always liked it, and the track, the people and the fans are just great,” Dempsey said. “I feel like I have improved every time I have been to Barber, which is good because it is a tricky place, and I want to improve even more this weekend.”
Although Dempsey’s busy schedule means his participation in any race usually comes right down to the wire – including this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park – he was able to race last year at Barber and in the first two events of 2011. In this year’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Dempsey and Foster were joined by teammates Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long for a third-place finish, the highest ever for the No. 40, and Dempsey Racing’s best team finish in the day-long Daytona race.
“We got off to a great start in Daytona, Patrick and all of the guys drove great, and our Mazda ran like a clock” Foster said. “We weren’t as lucky in the year’s second race in Miami where we had a rare retirement, but we got that out of the way, our new Mazda is the best car we have ever had and we are still feeling the momentum of the great Daytona result. We have done well at Barber in the past and I expect both the 40 and the 41 Team Seattle Mazdas will be strong this weekend.”
Foster qualified a team-best second in the No. 40 for the 2009 race at Barber and joined Espenlaub in finishing fourth in the race, which at the time was Dempsey Racing’s highest race finish to date. Foster also co-drove to a GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge Series victory at Barber, and the eventual series championship, in 2008 and led every lap from the pole in his opening stint in last year’s Continental race.
Gué has also been to victory lane at Barber in Continental Tire series competition, winning in 2009, and finishing second to Foster in 2008. Gué also spends more time at Barber than any other driver on the team, and likely more than most of the more than 100 drivers who will be competing in both GRAND-AM races this weekend.
“I'm really looking forward to Barber, in a lot of ways I consider it my home track,” Gué said. “I spend about 50 to 60 days a year working for the Porsche Sport Driving School there. Over the years I have always run well at Barber, finishing second in 2008 and winning in 2009 in the Continental Tire series. We were third last year in GT when we cut a tire in the last 20 minutes. Barber definitely ranks near the top of my list of favorite tracks.”
Cameron is Gué’s new teammate this year and showed well in both the Daytona opener and at Miami where the pair of young drivers brought the No. 41 home in fifth place.
“I think at Homestead our guys made some great calls, and considering how eventful it was for us, we had a great result,” Cameron said. “I think managing our tires smartly, plus a few good calls from the pit box, will keep us right in the thick of things for a podium. I don't have nearly the laps around Barber that James does so I'm hoping to get a few tips to help me get up to speed a bit quicker this weekend. The last time I was there was 2009, also in a Mazda RX-8 GT, but we suffered some mechanical problems that hampered our result.
Along with a 10th place finish in the Rolex 24, the fifth-place result at Miami moved the No. 41 Team Seattle Mazda up to sixth in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Team Championship with 47 points, just 11 points out of first place. The early race exit in Miami didn’t help, but the No. 40 still ranks a solid eighth in the GT Team Championship rankings with 43 points, just 15 markers behind the current class leaders.
Practice for Saturday’s race begins Thursday afternoon with Friday morning featuring both final practice and qualifying. No on-track activity is scheduled after that until race time at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
- Both Dempsey Racing entries will be part of a Mazda-organized effort to raise funds for the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund at this weekend’s race. Dempsey will join both Team Sahlen’s cars and the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda in carrying special graphics on their RX-8 GTs encouraging race fans to support the people affected by the devastating events in Japan by texting a $10 donation to REDCROSS at 90999 (message and data rates may apply). “It’s been just three weeks since the tragedy in Japan and already news updates have begun thinning out, while the people of Japan still need so much help,” Foster said. “We are hoping to generate a second round of donations to the Red Cross this weekend by keeping Japan top-of-mind with both the racing community and our fans.”
- Dempsey Racing’s charitable efforts will continue even when the on-track action stops this weekend. All four Dempsey Racing drivers, along with their teammates and sponsor partners, will represent the Team Seattle Guild and the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing at a Friday night fundraising dinner for Children’s Hospital of Alabama at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. The evening event follows a Friday afternoon program at the track that will see Dempsey Racing and several other GRAND-AM and Indy Car teams meet with, host paddock tours and provide parade laps for Alabama Children’s patients and their families. In-market outreach and support for peer Children’s Hospitals is a goal of Team Seattle backers, and last year the team toured and visited with the administration Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and The Montreal Children’s Hospital.
- Both Dempsey Racing Mazdas will be sporting new liveries this weekend. The No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA/ModSpace/Construct Corps car is swapping its bright orange and yellow “Share a Little Sunshine” theme for a striking blue and white color scheme, albeit with a similar graphic design to the popular Daytona podium livery. The No. 41 in turn will have its first new look since en