Team Seattle Daytona Test Report
Team Seattle Returns with Dempsey Racing for 2012 Rolex 24; Dempsey Center Support all Season; Six Drivers Test at DIS
First FishingCaptial.com/Bass 2 Billfish Run For Espenlaub & Putman; Rogers & Johnson Join Team Seattle
ATLANTA (December 13, 2011) – Dempsey Racing will race in support of Team Seattle at the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 26 – 28, and throughout the 2011 season for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing, with both the No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA Mazda RX-8 GT and No. 41 FishingCapital.com/Bass2 Billfish Mazda RX-8 GT and a full lineup of drivers that includes full-season pilots Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman, Dempsey’s designated stand-in Tom Long, and Team Seattle Rolex 24 specialists Don Kitch Jr., Rick Johnson and Dan Rogers.
All but Long and team owner/driver Dempsey tested the No. 41 Mazda last week at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) where a productive session saw Foster, Espenlaub, Putman, Kitch, Johnson and Rogers drive a combined 225 laps – more than 800 miles – over the two days.
“It was great to have the 41 car out, going around, making laps,” said Foster, Dempsey’s co-driver and motorsports business partner. “We just announced earlier this month the VISIT FLORIDA, FishingCapital.com, Bass 2 Billfish portion of the 41’s backing for next year, which is great, and the Team Seattle guys are getting ready for our usual January Rolex 24 program. Don Kitch was there with Rick Johnson and Dan Rogers and on Tuesday alone we did 108 laps with those guys in the car, and they didn’t put a foot wrong all day. We just focused a lot on spotting, traffic, coaching and getting these guys used to the car even though they are all experienced racers, and Don has won this race before.”
Team Seattle is returning to its Rolex 24 roots for the 50th Anniversary running of the Daytona endurance classic after fielding the No. 41 as a season-long fundraising entry with Dempsey Racing in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series the last two years. Kitch, who founded the Team Seattle Guild in support of Seattle Children’s Hospital in 1997, will be among the team drivers from the Northwest U.S. driving the No. 41 at Daytona next month.
“I am really excited to be back,” Kitch said. “This will be the biggest Rolex 24 we have ever seen, any of us, and you can feel it building. Great to be back with our partners Dempsey Racing, the chemistry here is very good, and it has been very good for three years now. I love working with these guys, it’s a good marriage and it only gets bigger and better. Dempsey Racing was very well prepared and staffed at the recent test and Team Seattle wanted for nothing these two days.”
Although the 2012 partnership is more Rolex 24 focused than the efforts of the previous two seasons, Dempsey Racing remains deeply committed to the Team Seattle cause.
“Even though we have had a changing of the guard a bit in terms of the way the Team Seattle program is packaged for us, Patrick and I definitely want to continue to support that effort,” Foster said. “We want to continue to have Seattle Children’s Hospital and Team Seattle as part of what we do at Dempsey Racing. We had a good couple of days testing and we are looking forward to the race.”
Johnson and Rogers are Team Seattle’s newest drivers in the No. 41 Mazda in next month’s race.
“I am so excited for Rick and Dan to come and participate in this event and they did a good job in testing,” Kitch said. “This is a big step for a guy to come to this facility and this event, and they have done great getting comfortable in the car. They were quicker and quicker each time they went out and I am really proud to have them representing Team Seattle and the city of Seattle for our Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dan and Rick are going to be great teammates and, of course, Dempsey Racing is throwing a couple of other very quick guys with us, so it is going to be good.”
Espenlaub, a Demspey Racing regular, will join Putman as the full-season co-drivers of the No. 41 in 2012.
“It’s fantastic, for one, to be back with the Dempsey guys for 2012, and then to be fulltime and get to drive with Charlie – we have had a lot of success together – makes it even better,” Espenlaub said. “It was his first time in a Rolex GT car at the test so we kind of spent the morning getting him acclimated to the differences of the car, and he adapted well. He seems to be enjoying it and we are looking forward to a great year.”
Espenlaub and Putman co-drove to the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS (Grand Sport) Championship.
“Daytona has got a lot of mystique about it, and this being the 50th anniversary, it is just a special year for the Rolex 24,” Putman said. “I am pretty at home with Daytona because we have run the Continental cars here a bit, but when you get in a new car and a higher horsepower car, it’s always an experience to go out there. I was really pleased with how well the car handles and what it feels like out there. The only thing I am not used to is that it goes into the corners a lot faster than I think it will, but I am getting used to it. There’s still some adjustments to make as far as getting accustomed to it, but we are off to a good start, and the car is very nice to drive.”
Johnson and Rogers joined Putman in making Rolex GT debuts at the test, the first laps ever for Johnson on the legendary DIS road course. Johnson is the Porsche General Sales Manager at Carrera Motors Porsche in Bend, Oregon, where he also runs Club Carrera, the dealership’s high-performance division.
“It’s a little different than what I am used to,” Johnson said. “This was my first time ever at Daytona and first time ever in a Mazda. The first lap at Daytona is something I will never forget. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought but it was certainly inspiring to come back after the first session and realize that you are at the hotbed of endurance racing in this country. It’s a good feeling, great team, everybody at Dempsey Racing is a joy to work with and the car is way different than I thought. It is so well balanced, they may not have an advantage this year, but for sure it is very light, very nimble and extremely quick around the banks.”
Rogers is from Anchorage, Alaska, where he owns a construction company and engineering firm that focuses on large power systems. Seattle Children’s Hospital has an extension in Alaska, doing work not only in Anchorage but also in some of the more rural communities.
“It was great,” Rogers said after his first GT laps at Daytona. “Last year I ran with Compass 360 in ST and stepping up to a GT was just wonderful. I couldn’t have done it with a better group of guys, like Joe and Charles, and, of course, the Team Seattle guys, it was great.”
Dempsey Racing will also support once again next season the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing, which is located in Dempsey’s hometown of Lewiston, Maine. A primary focus of these efforts will center on building funding and awareness for the Dempsey Challenge, a cycling event held each year to benefit the Dempsey Center.
“In the off season we had a fantastic cycling event up in Maine at the Dempsey Challenge, which really went well and we generated well over $1 million dollars in one day for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing,” Foster said. “One of the amazing things was that at the awards banquet we had up there for the fundraising, all of the awards were handed out by patients from the Dempsey Center. So everyone there, including Patrick, myself and my wife Claudette, and all of our Dempsey Racing teammates that supported the Dempsey Challenge, got to actually see and hear firsthand what the fundraising does for patients and their families.”
Dempsey Racing’s support efforts for both Team Seattle and the Dempsey Center will get an extra boost at the Daytona opener for the second consecutive year at next month’s 50th Anniversary Rolex 24. A special ticket offer to be announced shortly, which includes a group meet and greet with the Dempsey Racing drivers, will see a portion of the sales donated equally to Team Seattle and the Dempsey Center.
“At Daytona we are looking forward to doing another ticket package this year,” Foster said. “We are going to do a charity promotional event for race fans to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital through Team Seattle as well the Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing. Working with our friends at Daytona International Speedway, we are going to give fans the chance to be part of a group meet and greet with the drivers so these folks can hear what they have to say while providing some equal support for both charity groups.”
Next up for Dempsey Racing is the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 Test Days at Daytona, January 6 – 8. Both the No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA Mazda RX-8 GT and No. 41 FishingCapital.com/Bass2 Billfish with Team Seattle Mazda RX-8 GT are scheduled to participate. The 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona will be run January 26 – 29
Although his busy Hollywood schedule usually makes Dempsey’s participation in any racing activity a last-minute situation, January’s Roar Test Days event is currently on his calendar. “Patrick is definitely scheduled, from what we understand, to be back for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 to test the VISIT FLORIDA/ShareaLittleSunshine.org No. 40 Mazda,” Foster said. “That event will kind of be the unveiling as well of the livery for both cars for the season. We are further enhancing and extending our partnership with VISIT FLORIDA and Mazda this year and really look forward to it.”
After being coached and instructed in driving schools by both Espenlaub and Foster early in his career, one of Putman’s first victories came nearly a decade ago co-driving a spec Miata with Espenlaub in a 13-hour endurance race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Espenlaub later helped Putman make the step up to World Challenge competition where he was also first welcomed into the Mazda racing family. After three seasons in World Challenge, Putman turned to the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge where he resumed co-driving with Espenlaub. They captured the 2010 GS Championship in their third full season of Continental Tire competition.
Racing full season for FishingCapital.com and Bass 2 Billfish is ideal for Espenlaub. “It couldn’t be a more perfect match for me, obviously, being a lifelong Florida resident and avid sportsman in just about everything that I can find to get myself in a little bit of trouble and have some fun with in the Sunshine State,” Espenlaub said. “Working with VISIT FLORIDA, FishingCapital.com and Bass 2 Billfish again is like a match made in heaven.”
Rogers has a personal connection to Team Seattle. “I have been working with Team Seattle for about five years now, doing fundraising and coming to Daytona and spotting for them, so we have just kind of escalated the effort,” Rogers said. “As a racer, this is obviously a lot of people’s dreams. It is a great opportunity to run with Team Seattle and raise money for the hospital.”
Although he is driving for the team for the first time, Johnson has also been a strong proponent of Team Seattle the last few years. “I am extremely proud to be a part of Team Seattle and everything they are doing for Seattle Children’s Hospital,” Johnson said. “My involvement started from a relationship that I formed with Don Kitch to educate people on driving through his performance racing school and Carrera Motors Porsche and Club Carrera since 2009. This has always been on the radar and this year we made it happen. Team Seattle is really made up of a lot of interesting people trying to raise a lot of money for Seattle Children’s, and this year will probably be one of the bigger years.”
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 Norcross, 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).