More Milestones for Dempsey Racing and No. 40 Mazda RX-8 as Foster and Espenlaub Give Team Career-Best Weekend; Front-Row Start and Fourth-Place Finish Bests for Team in Barber Grand-Am Rolex Series Race BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 21, 2009) --...
More Milestones for Dempsey Racing and No. 40 Mazda RX-8 as Foster and Espenlaub Give Team Career-Best Weekend; Front-Row Start and Fourth-Place Finish Bests for Team in Barber Grand-Am Rolex Series Race
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 21, 2009) -- Dempsey Racing and drivers Joe Foster and Charles Espenlaub raced to a pair of significant milestones in the No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 at this past weekend's Porsche 250 presented by Legacy Credit Union Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Barber Motorsports Park. Foster qualified a Rolex Series personal and team-best second on Saturday and then joined Espenlaub in finishing fourth in Sunday's 2-¾ hour sprint, another career high for both Dempsey Racing and its drivers.
"We had a good weekend with our best qualifying on the front row and we missed the pole by just seven-thousands of a second," said Foster, who co-drove to the 2008 KONI Challenge win at Barber. "Both Charles and I ran as high as second and he made a great pass on Dirk Werner for fourth, and that was really the only car we could pass for position at that point. Then we just hung with Robin Liddell, who was leading, and finished the race out."
While Liddell and teammate Andrew Davis won the race in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R, the Dempsey Racing team's best weekend yet also seemed like a virtual victory. The only downside was that team co-owner and driver Patrick Dempsey missed the race due to professional commitments in California.
"I am so happy for Mazda and everybody at Dempsey Racing," Dempsey said. "I was going crazy not being able to be there to share it all with them but I know we are going to have similar reasons to celebrate in the future. This is our best season since we started in the Rolex Series in late 2007 and I am glad we can give Mazda a return on all of the support they have given us. I am proud of our team this weekend, not just for getting our best result yet but also for the effort they've put in to raising our game in many areas. Both qualifying and the race showed our potential and I know we'll be on the podium when the race unfolds in our direction. I can't wait to get back in that Mazda!"
The solid Barber weekend not only produced Dempsey Racing's career-best qualifying and race results but also continued a strong record of seven top-10 finishes in the team's last eight races, including a mid-season run of five straight with Dempsey and Foster co-driving. The highlight for that duo was a sixth-place finish in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio in June while the combo of Foster and Espenlaub produced the previous best Dempsey Racing team finish of fifth at VIR in 2008.
"With the Dempsey Racing guys, every time I get in the car it is just a better and better car," said Espenlaub, who was making his fourth start with the team this year and first since the Sahlen's Six Hours at The Glen last month. "They are doing a better job with all aspects of the team. They are improving everything all of the time so the car just worked phenomenal. I was with them at Watkins Glen for the six hour and that was the best the car had ever been. Now I got out of it after Barber and it is once again the best it has ever been."
Another positive aspect of the weekend was that Foster and Espenlaub each made comeback drives through the field after pit stops. Foster dropped to as low as 11th after the team's first stop and Espenlaub was at least seventh after taking over the driving duties from Foster.
"We got a reasonable race start, not a great start," Foster said. "Then we splashed early and that pit stop took a little longer because we had actually short-filled the tank to start the race to just go the first 45 minutes. So it took us about six seconds longer to fill the tank at the point. We were gambling on no yellows based on the fact that that was what happened earlier in the KONI races, so it was a gamble worth taking. So we lost a few positions in the pits through no fault of anybody on the crew, but we got back to second before I got out."
Espenlaub is as encouraged as his co-driver team owners.
There's a lot of people that are going to need to be watching out for Dempsey Racing coming up, Espenlaub said. "It's really neat to see and grow with the team and watch them blossom, so to speak."
Dempsey Racing's solid run of results this summer includes a top-10 finish in last month's 24 Hours of Le Mans that fell between the Sahlen's Six Hours and the EMCO Gears Classic. Dempsey and Foster combined to drive more than 20 hours of the race and, along with teammate Don Kitch Jr., finished ninth in the GT2 class in the No. 81 Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle Ferrari F430 GT.
Four races remain on 2009's 12-event Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule and next up is the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen on Friday, August 7. The race can be seen in same-day coverage on SPEED at 8 p.m. ET.