Patrick Dempsey and Andrew Davis Score first top-three of 2014 after overnight rebuild at Virginia International Raceway.
DANVILLE, Virginia - Following a total-team effort that included literally rebuilding the No. 27 Porsche 911 GT America overnight, Dempsey Racing drivers Patrick Dempsey and Andrew Davis raced to a third-place GT Daytona (GTD) finish in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) on Sunday.
The hard-earned result was the first podium finish for Dempsey, Davis and the No. 27 team this year, and in the inaugural IMSA TUDOR United Sports Car Championship season, and followed Dempsey Racing’s first 2014 podium finish one race ago. At Road America, Madison Snow and Jan Heylen finished third in the No. 58 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America.
“It was a sense of pride and accomplishment for the guys,” Dempsey said. “I don’t think you realize how great of a team they are until you see their level of commitment. They just put their heads down and did what they had to do. Today was really important to show how much that means. After chasing the podium for so long this is a lot of fun.”
While the podium was a great end to the weekend, it came after overcoming a major setback on Saturday. The No. 27 built on a measured pace in Friday practice to set the fastest time with Davis halfway through Saturday morning’s 90-minute final session before qualifying. Dempsey then took over and turned some of his best laps of the weekend, but a late off-course incident ended with heavy contact in the VIR tire barriers.
Dempsey was uninjured in the accident but the No. 27 Porsche suffered major left rear-end damage among other scrapes and dents. The Dempsey Racing team quickly began repairs, an all-day process of going through the car and fixing a variety of elements, including a new rear-end clip, which lasted until just before Midnight.
The repaired No. 27 was perfect in Sunday morning’s warm-up and, having missed Saturday qualifying, starting driver Dempsey took the green flag for that afternoon’s race from the back of the grid.
Despite a number of incidents on-track, the majority of Dempsey’s race-opening shift was run in green conditions. Dempsey took full advantage and, in one his best stints of the season, raced to as high as fifth and was even scored in third as the field began to cycle through for first pit stops.
Taking advantage of a caution, Dempsey pitted and turned the Porsche over to Davis who immediately realized they were in a strong position for a podium finish. Davis ran in the lead pack throughout his stint, raced into the top three and then worked with the team in stretching the No. 27’s fuel to the end.
A late caution under 15 minutes from the finish took away and fuel worries but created a frantic three-lap dash to the finish that saw Davis successfully defend his position while running in a tight, top-five train of other leading GTD cars.
“It feels like forever, we’ve been struggling all year,” Davis said. “The Dempsey Porsche has been strong, but again we had to endure adversity. Patrick drove better than I have ever seen him drive before. His pace was unbelievable. He was as fast as the leaders most of the time, he carved up through the back all the way to the top five and handed the car over to me. The Dempsey racing crew was flawless in the pits and our Porsche ran exceptionally well. It’s great for the team, I’m so proud of everybody.”
For Dempsey, the great result sets the team well for the final two races of the season. He and then teammate Andy Lally finished third in a Porsche in last year’s IMSA ALMS GTC race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), the next race on this year’s IMSA TUDOR Championship schedule.
“The race was incredibly clean,” Dempsey said. “I was aggressive when I could be, but just being out here with all these guys is a tremendous honor and privilege. Andrew did such a good job Saturday and in delivering on race day. He just stayed calm. It’s what it’s all about, when you have these moments I am just grateful to have this experience.”
For a time, it looked like both Dempsey Racing Porsches were capable of hitting the podium in the Oak Tree Grand Prix. Both Heylen and Snow led in the No. 58 for a significant portion of the race only to see things come apart in the final hour.
Starting driver Heylen charged from fifth on the grid to first by the end of the opening race lap and led throughout his stint. He pitted to hand over to Snow for the first of two planned driver changes with a full 17-second advantage over the GTD field.
Opting for a unique strategy in which Snow would run the middle stint and then return the Porsche to Heylen for the closing minutes, the approach paid major dividends as the race continued. Snow raced in the lead for the majority of his stint but a late caution threw a curve into what had been a great strategy to that point.
When the yellow came out with an hour and 10 minutes remaining, Snow had not yet completed his series-mandated minimum drive time. The team elected to leave Snow on track during the caution to complete his required time behind the wheel but the unfortunate result was an eventual pit stop just as the green flag flew. The duo swapped out with one hour to go but returned to the race just outside of the top 10, and Heylen only had enough time left to race to ninth by the finish.
“It was going all right for most of the race,” Snow said. “It was looking like it was going to be great and the yellow came out, which really hurt us. We made the call knowing we were going for the win or we were going to end up where we ended up. If there wasn’t a yellow right there we would have had the win.”
For Heylen, yet another missed opportunity is representative of their season.
“We had the quickest car today and all weekend,” Heylen said. “We had the fastest lap in the race and we didn’t win. I just wanted to win for the team, myself and for everybody. Today was the day and I just didn’t do it. That’s racing. It’s just very frustrating. You always say after the race what would have or could have worked. Everybody did a good job and we have some things to think over for next time. It’s really just frustrating. At least we were fast, our teammate’s car got a podium. They got lucky on the other end of things with the yellows.”
The upcoming COTA event is a Saturday doubleheader with the World Endurance Championship (WEC) on Saturday, September 20. The IMSA TUDOR Championship race is scheduled to start at 11:35 a.m. CDT and can be seen in same-day coverage on FOX Sports 1 at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT.