First Top-Five Finish of the Season at The Glen with No. 41 FishingCapital.com/Bass 2 Billfish Mazda RX-8 GT with Espenlaub and Putman
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 11, 2012) – A race that saw Dempsey Racing earn both a season-high finish and suffer its worst accident of the year were the mixed results for the two-car Mazda RX-8 GT team in Saturday’s Continental Tire 200 presented by Dunn Tire on the NASCAR “short course” at The Glen.
Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman co-drive the No. 41 FishingCapital.com/Bass 2 Billfish Mazda RX-8 GT to a Dempsey Racing season-best fifth-place finish as teammate Joe Foster was lucky to escape serious injury after the sister No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA entry was knocked off course and into the SAFER barrier by a Daytona Prototype.
“The Dempsey guys once again worked their butts off this weekend and gave us a much better car for the race,” said Espenlaub, who drove the No. 41 to the finish. “It really showed, we drove hard to the last lap, it is a deserved fifth, and hopefully we will move up from here.”
Putman started the No. 41 and put in his best drive so far in his first year of GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition.
“My lap times in the race were almost two seconds faster than what I qualified so that tells you what a great job our engineer Kirt Wightman and the crew did for the race,” Putman said. “We had a good car, and I drove one of my best stints of the year, but our heart goes out the 40 car guys, the car is just sitting over there with a lot of damage, so it is kind of bittersweet for us. We came back to the paddock jumping up and down, happy for the fifth, but is also a very bad deal to see a hard hit like that on anybody, especially your teammates.”
Foster was just settling into his race-opening stint in the No. 40 when the contact occurred 20 minutes into the two-hour event in the final turn leading on to The Glen’s start/finish line front straight.
“Awesome finish for the 41 Bass 2 Billfish/VISIT FLORIDA Mazda for Charles and Charlie, very happy for them,” Foster said. “The 40 car was actually running quite well, we had some very good times early in the race and we were just cruising, doing a fuel mileage thing like we were supposed to, and we got put off by another Daytona Prototype again. This time it heavily damaged the car, which is totaled at this point and will not make Montreal.”
Foster was examined and released from The Glen’s medical center and plans to make a visit to his physician back home in Atlanta this week for further evaluation of a sprained right foot. The team was also searching, before Saturday’s race even ended, for a back-up Mazda RX-8 GT to use in this Saturday’s Montreal 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
The No. 41 team and drivers overcame some close calls of their own. Espenlaub escaped from a multi-car incident in Turn 1 just minutes into the race’s second hour while some quick thinking by the team kept a failing alternator from robbing the No. 41 of the top-five result.
“It was obviously a pretty big battle going in there to Turn 1,” Espenlaub said. “I left them room, but it seemed like it was a little racy for that early in the deal, somebody tapped me a little bit in the back, it got me loose, and then all hell broke loose behind me after that.”
The alternator failure required what appeared to be a late-race “splash and go” pit stop for fuel that actually wasn’t.
“We had to make a short pit stop near the end to put a battery in to make it to the finish,” Espenlaub. “We had a good strategy but just had the alternator quit so we stopped for a quick battery swap. We didn’t even put fuel in it.”
Foster’s co-driver Tom Long, who was standing-in for team owner and driver Patrick Dempsey this weekend, didn’t get a chance to drive for the second consecutive race. He was third in the driver rotation following Dempsey and Foster one race ago at Indianapolis but never turned a lap in that race when the No. 40 was retired with a mechanical failure in the race’s final hour. He was left on the sidelines again Saturday after the No. 40’s early exit.
“The VISIT FORIDA Mazda had a lot of potential for today,” Long said. “It’s just difficult that we got taken out by yet another Daytona Prototype and I am just happy Joe is OK after the incident. This Dempsey Racing team is just going to work hard and overcome these issues and I am just happy for the Bass 2 Billfish car to get a top five.”
Next up for the Dempsey Racing VISIT FLORIDA Mazda RX-8 GT team and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Cars Series is this Saturday’s Montreal 200 on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. The timed-two hour sprint on the 2.709-mile road course can be seen in same-day coverage on SPEED, Saturday, August 18, at 7 p.m. EDT/4 p.m. PDT.
- This is the second time in little over a year that Dempsey Racing has been forced to scramble for a replacement car. Foster was knocked off course and made heavy contact with the Turn 1 tire barrier in the opening laps of last year’s race at Road America. He recovered from a neck injury sustained in that incident, and actually drove the back-up car the team prepared for the following race two weeks later at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but this time around the Dempsey Racing team has less than 72 hours to find, prep and transport a replacement No. 40 car to Canada.
“We know the drill, we have been through it before, but it is just frustrating and a big stress and strain on the entire team to have to go through this again,” Foster said. “We all know it’s part of the game in racing but this time it is even more frustrating because I understand it was just declared a racing incident, with no penalties, so we have, prototypes throwing GT cars into the wall with no consequence.”
About Dempsey Racing: A fulltime and year-round enterprise, Dempsey Racing (www.dempseyracing.net) is a professional sports car auto racing team based in the greater Atlanta area in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Owned by actor/driver Patrick Dempsey, the team races in support of the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing (www.dempseycenter.org) in Dempsey’s hometown of Lewiston, Maine, and the Team Seattle Guild (www.teamseattle.com) to benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital Heart Center (www.seattlechildrens.org).
About Dempsey Racing’s Partners: Dempsey Racing (www.dempseyracing.net) is an official Mazda (www.mazdausa.com) racing team and has competed exclusively in Mazda RX-8 GTs in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series since 2007. A primary partner for the Mazda program is VISIT FLORIDA (www.VISITFLORIDA.com), the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida, and its www.ShareaLittleSunshine.org and www.FishingCapital.com promotional programs, and the television show Bass 2 Billfish with Peter Miller. Additional Dempsey Racing partners include Trina Solar (www.trinasolar.com), a leading manufacturer of high-quality solar photovoltaic (PV) modules that deliver reliable, environmentally-friendly power to homes and businesses and value to customers, and Specialized Bicycle Components (www.specialized.com), a manufacturer and worldwide supplier of technically advanced bicycles and related components. New partners for 2012 include GNC Beverages (www.drinkGNC.com), built upon the 75 years of nutrition innovation from the leader in sports nutrition, Motegi Racing (www.motegiracing.com), a leading manufacturer of competition and high-performance tuning wheels designed and engineered for performance, Racing Electronics (www.racingelectronics.com), the number one source for professional race communications worldwide, and Silicon Tech Racing (www.silicontechracing.com) which provides high-tech corporations a dedicated marketing platform through sports car road racing focused on technology executives.
Photo: Margie Gerard