Dempsey Racing Powers No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA/Share a Little Sunshine Mazda RX-8 GT to Top-10 Finish at 50th Rolex 24
Using the same determination, drive and total teamwork that produced last year’s third-place podium result, Dempsey Racing’s No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA/Share a Little Sunshine Mazda RX-8 GT was driven to its third consecutive top-10 finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 28 – 29. Team drivers Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub, Tom Long and Charlie Putman all made a contribution in the weekend’s 10th place result that follows last year’s third place showing and a sixth-place result in 2010.
“I’m so proud of the team, I can’t get over it,” Dempsey said. “They just worked so hard all week, all through the testing. We had a lot of adversity, they overcame it, and just the consistency with the 40 car was great. Charles, Joe, Tom, Charlie, everybody did a great job. Really, really consistent, solid performance and as a team I couldn’t be happier. To say coming into this weekend, we’d be coming out of here with a top-10 finish I would have been thrilled, completely. We stayed out of trouble, drove within ourselves, didn’t take too many risks and it paid off in the end.”
Dempsey Racing’s sister No. 41 FishingCapital.com/Bass2Billfish with Team Seattle Mazda RX-8 GT also celebrated a determined finish of its own Sunday, albeit under different circumstances. The No. 41 was heavily damaged Saturday night after a blatant bump-and-run hit from another GT competitor, but the Dempsey Racing crew never thought for a minute about giving up. After lengthy repairs, the No. 41 returned to the race Saturday evening and team drivers Don Kitch Jr., Rick Johnson, Dan Rogers, Ian James and Scott Maxwell did their part to get the stricken car to the finish line in 27th place.
“It was a successful outing for Team Seattle, especially related to the kids,” said Kitch, who both drives for and created the Team Seattle program. It was a bit of a war out there last night. We kind of lost a couple battles and that put us back a ways, but at the end of the day we raised $150,000. The kids are the ones that win in this deal. I’ve run here with a lot of teams, but Dempsey Racing, Joe, Patrick and Mazda, VISIT FLORIDA, they made up their mind they were going to take good care of us. It doesn’t get much more professional than this.”
As both a team driver and Dempsey’s motorsports business partner, Foster is already looking ahead to the coming weeks.
“We’re hopefully going testing to improve the package that we have,” Foster said. “We’re going to do a little testing at Barber Motorsports Park, if we can, and just work on every aspect of the process. Considering the state of competition in GT right now, to finish 10th in our car was outstanding. Obviously we had a different kind of race this year than we had last year. We had to really come back from some adversity this year. We had some people say the 41 car was a write-off but it was on the track less than three hours after it got hit.”
Maxwell was part of the driver lineup in the No. 40 that finished sixth two years ago, but this weekend he was in the No. 41.
“My time in the car was actually pretty uneventful,” Maxwell said. “The car really handled well the whole race. We were just a little down on power and therefore we didn’t have the speed we needed. The car ran like a train. It’s too bad we had a couple of little incidents but that’s all it takes in this race, it’s so competitive. I’m glad we finished the race but disappointed that we got caught up in an accident. This was great for Team Seattle. We were pounding in the laps and bringing it home, that was objective number one, and we’re going to get that done.”
Putman will drive the No. 41 all season with Espenlaub, but both drivers were in the No. 40 at the 50th Rolex 24.
“It was a learning experience for me,” Putman said. “This was my first experience in this car. Outside of testing and some practice, I didn’t have much time in the car to speak of, I had two laps. My first stint was at night. Daytona at night is pretty intimidating but we got through it and it got better each stint. My third stint was very comfortable, very good. I’m very happy with the car, with the team. I think we have good things for the future. I’m looking forward to the rest of this year. It’s going to be a fun one. It’s going to be intense.”
Long was in the No. 40 for the second straight year and will also substitute for Dempsey whenever the popular actor’s “day job” schedule keeps him from races this year.
“The VISIT FLORIDA Mazda was just really reliable,” Long said. “Dempsey Racing did an awesome job this whole event. I really couldn’t ask for any more. We did all we could and had all we could ask for with this team. I feel like my performance in the car was always there, it was just a matter of getting the balance of the car there so it was comfortable for everybody to drive.”
Next up for Dempsey Racing and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series is the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, in Birmingham, Alabama, March 30 – 31.
Dempsey was very happy with the effort around the No. 41 Mazda. “Getting the 41 car back out there and raising $150,000 for the Team Seattle Guild is fantastic,” Dempsey said. “I think that’s great.”… Dempsey is also hoping for some testing before the next race, which is nearly two months away. “It’s really hard to be out of the car that long, I need to get some testing in,” Dempsey said. “This weekend I got a lot of seat time, which I really, really needed. I thought throughout the whole 24 hours, I kept getting better. I was more consistent and smoother. Lap times were consistent but I was really trying hard to concentrate on being smooth and consistent.”… Kitch was able to pull a driving shift in the morning, his favorite time of day in a Rolex 24. “For me, the morning is my favorite part of the race,” Kitch said. “I think most drivers here would say that. Sunday morning is a very, very special time. With the sun just coming up and the cars no longer looking the way they did when they started the race. They have their own beauty because they made it through the night. That’s a very emotional time to drive here at Daytona.”