Monday Motivation

Patrick Dempsey: From Actor to Racer

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Ladies are in love with him, and guys want to be him. Patrick Dempsey, 47, seems to be the All-American guy, portraying likable characters on television and movies, and above all, becoming a legend on the racetrack.

Dempsey is the lead driver and owner of Dempsey Racing, and is also in his fourth full season of GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT class competition. He is part of the only All-American team along with Joe Foster and Patrick Long, competing in the Le Mans race in France, which is a 24-hour endurance race. Dempsey has been driving competitively for ten years now and says if he could, he would give up acting completely and become fully invested in Porsche racing.


Dempsey first became a well-known actor in the 1980s, playing exuberant and charming characters. His first movie was called “Heaven Help Us,” a 1960s school-age comedy that premiered in 1985. He later played an epileptic teen who sues his parents in order to have brain surgery in the 1986 film, “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color: A Fighting Choice.”  Dempsey eventually climbed the Hollywood latter in the 90s movies, “Coupe de Ville,” the action thriller, “Run,” and “Face the Music.”

In the late nineties, Dempsey reinvented himself and took on more daunting roles such as a recurring role as Will’s closeted sportscaster in the sitcom “Will and Grace” in 1998, and in another TV series, “Once and Again,” in which he earned a dramatic Emmy nomination for in 2001 as an Outstanding Guest Actor. But Dempsey didn’t really become a big Hollywood name until his breakout role on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Derek Shepherd in 2005. Audiences were hooked and became slightly obsessed with his charm, good looks and intelligent humor. He is a two-time Golden Globe nominee, which has given Dempsey what he’s needed to skyrocket in films such as “Enchanted,” “Made of Honor,” and “Freedom Writers.”

I just love racing. I love this world of camaraderie, the development of it and the mental and physical challenge.

Movie goers and TV buffs are very familiar with Dempsey, but there are others who know him as an incredible racecar driver. His first competitive driving experience was a three-day Skip Barber Racing School course, a gift from his wife in 2004. He also competed in the Panoz GT Series as a graduate of the Panoz Racing School, and in 2005 he competed in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, the Mazdaspeed Miata MX-5 Cup and the Panoz GT Series.

In 2007, Dempsey debuted in the Rolex Series GT competition at Miller Motorsports Park with Foster. He also ran seven GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races with a series career-best finish of sixth with Charles Espenlaub, a regular stand-in for Dempsey, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.


On June 23, 2013, Dempsey and his Dempsey Del Piero Racing team finished fourth in their class at the 90th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Racing in a No.77 Porsche 911 GT3, Dempsey and Long each led the race twice, and Foster raced in the top three. Dempsey and Foster also saw remarkable results when they advanced five finishing positions from their ninth-place GT2 showing in their 2009 Le Mans first appearance.

“It was just a great race,” says Dempsey. “We came up just a little short on the podium, but we will reach that goal soon enough. We had a great time.”

Even though fourth place is looked upon as amazing, it’s quite possible that a flat tire in the race’s first hour prevented the team from finishing in the top three. “The only operational difference between us and third place was an errant flat tire in the first hour of the race,” says Foster. “It was a puncture caused by debris. There were no problems all race with the Michelins, but we were then basically out of sequence for the next 23 hours.”

Premiering August 28 at 10 p.m. on the Velocity network, is the four-part mini series called “Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans.” It has been two years in the making and is affiliated with Discovery. The documentary will focus on his return to Le Mans and also the great lineage of other actors who have taken part as racecar drivers including James Garner, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.

“It’s quite remarkable that I am even mentioned in that group, but Steve McQueen was a great driver and came in second place at the Sebring. He never got to race here, but made a beautiful movie called Le Mans, which really captured the essence of Paul Newman who only got to race here once.”


Dempsey’s achievements don’t end there, though. He’s been married for 14 years to Jillian Fink and has had three children. And after his mother battled ovarian cancer, he started The Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing, which is a focal part of cancer care at the Maine Medical Center. In 2008, Dempsey donated $250,000 to the medical center, which provides free education, integrated medical services and health care to anyone impacted by cancer. To generate additional money for the fund, Dempsey has held an annual bike race that has made nearly $1 million. His All-American attitude is undeniable. He’s also campaigned for the Tony Hawk Foundation, which is dedicated to seeking improvements in society, especially on supporting youth power.

But if Dempsey could choose one passion, he’d give up acting all for racing. “I just love racing,” says Dempsey. “I love this world of camaraderie, the development of it and the mental and physical challenge. And to be at this level with so much attention on us as a team is quite exciting. It’s very challenging.”

This guy is quite the role model, and it seems as though Dempsey is just beginning. Going into its tenth season of Grey’s Anatomy, Dempsey continues to dominate in his career and motorsports. This is an example of a truly admirable person. Sensational on and off the racetrack, Dempsey is becoming a legend.

(Picture Source: Official Patrick Dempsey Racing Fan Page)