ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – He’s the poster boy, err, man of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Series.
A poster promoting the series has Patrick Dempsey’s image on it. Of course it’s not like he’s not used to it.
After all, he is McDreamy from the hit prime-time TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” and twice runner-up as People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year (2005 and 2006).
But if he had a choice, racing would be the 48-year-old’s life, passion. Acting has become his side hobby, even though it was acting that got his racing career finally from dream to reality.
“I just love it,” Dempsey said of racing. “There’s nothing like it. I enjoy the sport.
“I’ve always been a fan of racing since I was kid.”
However, as a kid, the means weren’t there for him. So he pursued acting when he became a teenager.
As the acting career continued to grow, Dempsey held out hope that he could one day get into racing. Now that he’s in it and is the most famous figure in the paddock, he’s embraced his role in the sport.
“I think if it brings people out to the track whether you love racing or don’t love racing and you get exposed to it, it’s certainly a good thing,” Dempsey said. “There’s a lot of talented drivers that are in this series that deserve the recognition.”
This year was a major change for sports car fans in the United States.
After last season, the NASCAR Grand-Am Series merged with the American Le Mans Series, creating the TUDOR series.
“I think they’re still working on the transition,” Dempsey said. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement and I think they’ve become aware of that.
“Most people going into this year knew there would be some growing pains.”
The unification of the two series provided fans of both series to come together.
“It’s good for sports car racing for the two series to merge,” Dempsey said. “The car count is really quite high, which is nice to see.”
Dempsey didn’t see the merge playing a hindrance on a certain fan or fan’s fandom toward one series or another.
“I think people that love sports car racing love both series,” Dempsey said. “I think it’s the same fan base.”
The difference is the drivers are now busier at the track.
Road America has always been a destination Dempsey looks forward to.
“I love this track,” he said. “It’s one of the best tracks in the country as far as I’m concerned. The atmosphere, the layout, the speed of the track, how well its maintained and the town itself has a lot of history.
“(The track) just has a lot of character. … They don’t make tracks like this anymore. … It’s one of those tracks you enjoy driving.”
With the rolling hills and country scenery, it would appear to be a smooth Sunday ride.
“He’s a very hectic Sunday drive certainly,” he joked.
Dempsey initially dabbled in racing in 2005 when he competed in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race at Long Beach. He crashed with one lap to go in that race. He did it again in 2006 and finished third. From there, a lifelong race fan became race car driver, for life.