Patrick Dempsey eyes Rolex Series in 2007
Patrick Dempsey is no stranger to driving a car at high speeds, dodging in and out of traffic. The Grey's Anatomy star gets that every morning driving to and from Hollywood. But in the cockpit of a race car, Dempsey had never experienced the fast-paced, high-adrenaline world of Grand-Am Cup Series action until climbing into the No. 54 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT for this weekend's Daytona Test Days.
Turning his first laps at Daytona International Speedway this morning, in preparations for his Grand-Am Cup Series debut on the track less than three weeks from now, Dempsey admitted that it took a couple of laps before he fully realized where he was.
"Being at this track, with all the history, it took me a while just to get back into my body," said Dempsey. "I was so excited about being here. This is a great series to start off, and the people around me have been very supportive. Today was just a big learning day for me--and I think the season will be a big learning curve for me. I just want to get as much seat time as possible and earn my way up the rankings."
Dempsey, an avid racing fan, is stepping up to Grand-Am Cup Series competition in 2006, with an eye toward the GT class of the Rolex Series in 2007. Dempsey and team co-principals Joe Foster and Rick Skelton all agree that developing a driver for any series takes time. And in the case of Hyper Sport, Foster and Skelton want to make sure it's done right.
"Our program is taking a step forward by including Patrick," said Foster. "It's going to help the whole series grow. We have a Daytona Prototype that we're not running here because we want to make sure Patrick's program goes good. He had his first run in the Mustang this morning, and everything went well, and we're excited to be here."
"The Rolex Series is no longer a goal for us, it will be a reality," added Skelton. "Our goal is to build slowly and methodically, and do things right, which will take time. Hopefully by next year, Patrick will be in the car with us for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. That's the plan right now, and we have every intention of seeing that goal come to fruition. And because of Grand American's affordability, we will also be able to continue our GS program in Grand-Am Cup."
Even Dempsey, the critically-acclaimed actor, couldn't help but notice the star-studded field that the Rolex Series has assembled for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. And if Dempsey has his way, he'll someday be remembered as much for his driving ability as for anything else.
"You have all these stars from all these different series that show up," said Dempsey. "When you see them at different events, they all talk about the Rolex 24 At Daytona and how competitive these series are. They also talk about how much fun they have and how much joy they have in the cars. I think that says a lot about the series and how they've developed a car that people really enjoy driving. To be hanging with this group is a tremendous honor. These guys are my heroes, and I get in awe when I see all my favorite drivers and a lot of guys that I know from just going to the tracks."