Dempsey Racing returns Mazda’s in 2012 with full VISIT FLORIDA support.

ORLANDO, Florida (December 1, 2011) – Dempsey Racing will campaign a two-car Mazda RX-8 GT team in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series for the third-consecutive year in 2012 in an expanded program with Mazda partner VISIT FLORIDA®, supporting both Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster in the No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA/Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT and Charles Espenlaub, who has been named the lead driver of the No. 41 FishingCapital.com/Bass2 Billfish/Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT he will co-drive with Charlie Putman.

The announcement was made during Mazda’s annual opening day press conference at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show at the Orlando Convention Center on Thursday morning. Next up on Dempsey Racing’s agenda is participation in next week’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series test at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), December 6 – 7.

“Dempsey Racing expanded to a two-car operation in 2010 and VISIT FLORIDA has been with us from practically the start while Mazda, of course, brought us into GT at the end of 2007 in our debut race with a Mazda RX-8 GT,” said team owner and driver Patrick Dempsey, the popular television and film actor who has also raced at professional levels for the last six years. “Mazda actually first introduced us to VISIT FLORIDA, they have a very unique partnership that works so well at so many levels, and we couldn’t be happier than to grow this relationship to the next level.”

The No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT will run the full season in VISIT FLORIDA’s popular orange and yellow ShareaLittleSunshine.org paint scheme that was on the car when Dempsey, Foster, Espenlaub and Tom Long finished a team career-best third in last January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona. Long will continue to be a part of the team next season as the designated replacement driver when Dempsey’s busy Hollywood schedule forces him to miss races.

Espenlaub had served since 2008 as Dempsey’s high-speed “stand-in” but has always been capable of stepping up to a lead-driver role in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, something he will finally have the chance to do next season. He will partner with Putman, Espenlaub’s co-driver of the last few seasons in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge Series, who will contest his first full season of Rolex Series GT competition. Espenlaub and Putman co-drove to the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Grand Sport (GS) Championship.

“I have always enjoyed running with the Dempsey Racing team,” said Espenlaub, a Florida native and resident. “Patrick and Joe are close friends, everybody on the team is great to work with, and VISIT FLORIDA has fit right in with the same approach. VISIT FLORIDA was a perfect addition to the Dempsey Racing family and I am looking forward to representing my home state, Mazda and Dempsey Racing at the same time. I am also looking forward to racing with Charlie again who is more than ready for the jump to GT and is also an avid outdoorsman.”

Espenlaub, who lives in the Tampa Bay-area city of Lutz, Florida, spends as much time enjoying the Sunshine State’s ample outdoors and waterways as he does driving a race car. He is a licensed partner in an adventure guide service business that takes people on tours of Florida’s Everglades and other remote treasures. Pairing Espenlaub with VISIT FLORIDA’s FishingCapital.com and the television show Bass 2 Billfish with Peter Miller was a natural fit.

FishingCapital.com is a new website VISIT FLORIDA launched last April in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is the ultimate website for boating and fishing enthusiasts with content to help anglers get the most out of their next Florida fishing trip. Bass 2 Billfish, hosted by championship professional angler Peter Miller, is all-Florida focused and its reality format sees each episode feature groups or teams of individuals in a once-in-a-lifetime fishing adventure.

“Charles is definitely part of our extended Mazda family, he has been with Dempsey Racing from our very first GT race, and is a perfect fit to represent the Florida adventure life,” said Foster, Dempsey’s co-driver and motorsports business partner. To bring an outdoor sportsman and GRAND-AM Champion like Charlie Putman to our team as well is also a treat.”

Both the FishingCapital.com and Bass 2 Billfish branding first appeared on the No. 41 at this past June’s Rolex Sports Car Series 250 driven by VISITFLORIDA.com at Road America. They will be featured more prominently in next year’s livery on the No. 41 which will showcase a red, white and blue theme in the same design scheme as the No. 40 Mazda.

The expanded driver lineups for the season-opening 50th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 26 – 29, will be announced in the coming weeks for both the No. 40 and No. 41 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GTs in addition to the charitable and philanthropic programs the team will be supporting in 2012.

About Dempsey Racing
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, Dempsey Racing is an official Mazda (www.mazdausa.com) racing team and has competed exclusively in Mazda RX-8 GTs since 2007. Team partners include VISIT FLORIDA (www.VISITFLORIDA.com), the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida, and its ShareaLittleSunshine.org and FishingCapital.com promotional programs, and the television show Bass 2 Billfish with Peter Miller. Additional Dempsey Racing partners include Trina Solar (www.trinasolar.com), a leading manufacturer of high-quality solar photovoltaic (PV) modules that deliver reliable, environmentally-friendly power to homes and businesses and value to customers, and Specialized Bicycle Components (www.specialized.com), a manufacturer and worldwide supplier of technically advanced bicycles and related components.

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