After the first or second pit stop for fuel, most teams at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, rain tires were swapped for slicks. There are no intermediate Pirelli tires for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. Going out on slicks, especially ‘stickers’ (new slicks which haven’t been scrubbed in) is a special challenge.

So said PATRICK DEMPSEY, driver and team owner of No.40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8. His co-driver, JOE FOSTER, ran the first (double) stint on wets, and when the pit stop for driver change was made, Dempsey went out on stickers. “Initially, getting the slicks up to temperature was problematic.” Dempsey won’t get back into the car until midnight. When asked about the rainy start, Dempsey said “It was great for TV, and challenging for the drivers. The officials did a great job starting the race.”

Dempsey Racing has expanded to a two-car team. The second car, No.41 Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle Mazda RX-8. He said he was “fortunate in this economy;  it’s great to expand to two cars. We have a lot to learn this year.” Dempsey has worked with Team Seattle before, so it was “good continuity, synergy,  and it was the right fit.”

Patrick Dempsey. Photo by Shaun Lumley
Patrick Dempsey. Photo by Shaun Lumley

Dempsey likes endurance racing – “there’s the challenge of it.” He contrasted the Rolex 24 at Daytona and The 24 Hours of Le Mans. “The cars are different. The Rolex 24 is a three-day event; Le Mans is a week, and it has ritual, history and is special.” Dempsey hopes to have sponsorship to run this year’s Le Mans. One kink could be that Dempsey will be shooting a movie around that time.

As part of his personal fitness program, Dempsey is working with JACQUES DALLAIRE’s Performance Prime.

Dempsey has already acquired the movie rights to “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by GARTH STEIN. The actor has another meeting with the screen writers the day after the Rolex 24 to discuss the production schedule. Dempsey hopes the movie will go into production this year. He will play the lead, race driver DENNY SWIFT. No word on who will play ENZO, who narrates the story.

Another voice on rain racing came from ALEX GURNEY/No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley DP. He said “It was real wet at the start and I had to be really careful. We all promised the boss we’d cruise in the rain. However, there were some drivers out there who weren’t careful.” He didn’t name names, but when pressed, Gurney said “CHRISTOPHE BOUCHUT/No.95 Crown Royal/NPN BMW Riley DP and RICARDO ZONTA/No.75 Krohn Racing Ford Lola DP. Bouchut spun and I was happy to see that.”

DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.01 Ganassi Racing DP said after he got out of the car in Hour Five “It’s still wet out there, and it’s still a single lane track. We’re logging laps and then going for it at the end.”

The TV commentators said the pit lane was still wet four hours after the rain stopped. They opined causes could include there was no wind to dry the track, and it was high humidity.

At the end of Hour Four, there had been eleven lead changes among eight drivers/seven cars. SCOTT DIXON/No.02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley DP Laps 23-36; SCOTT PRUETT/No.01 Ganassi Racing DP Laps 37-40; Zonta Laps 41-49; Pruett Laps 50-55; IAN JAMES/No.7 Starworks Motorsport BMW Riley Laps 56-57; Dixon Laps 58-82; and Franchitti Laps 83-111. The cautions number five for 25 laps of 110 laps.