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Celebrity Drive: Patrick Dempsey

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/3/2014 K.S. Wang

Quick Stats: Patrick Dempsey Actor/Auto racer
Favorite road trip: California coast
Car he learned to drive in: 1966 Chevy pickup
First car bought: early 1970s diesel Mercedes-Benz

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In the years since "Grey's Anatomy" star Patrick Dempsey formed Dempsey Racing, it has become his other passion. Though he was once known as an actor who spent time racing, he's now gained recognition for being a competitive auto racer in his own right.

This summer his team was invited back to compete in Le Mans for the third time, running its No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class. The team placed fifth (and fourth last year).

Dempsey's team races in the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship season, with co-driver Andrew Davis and his longtime teammate and motorsports partner, Joe Foster, who joins them for the endurance races. Dempsey runs the No. 27 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America in the Tudor Championship GTD class, where in August he and Davis had their first podium finish this year. At the previous race at Road America, Dempsey Racing also made the podium, a first for this season, with drivers Madison Snow and Jan Heylen in third place in the No. 58 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America.

Racing has become Dempsey's other career. "I really have to thank 'Grey's Anatomy' for allowing the time off to go do it. They've been incredibly supportive and it's nice. It was funny, because at first it was just mostly fans of the show that would come to the races and now it's people who are really fans of racing who come up and are supporting me as a racer, which is what I've always really wanted -- to be respected as a driver," he says. "And I also have a day job like other people that come racing, so it's nice to be embraced by the racing community in such a supportive way."

Dempsey Racing is a serious venture as well. "It's become, at this level, a very big business," Dempsey says. "Sometimes we have up to 16 employees that we have to be responsible for. So it's a lot of work certainly."

© Provided by MotorTrend When Dempsey isn't on the track, he has time to enjoy his collection of cars, which has included a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing that was his daily driver. He rated it a 9.5 out of 10.

"It's a wonderful car because it's got great performance, it's really beautiful to look at and is a super car," he says. "It doesn't alienate people; it brings people to have a great appreciation, no matter if it's a little kid or an older woman or a guy, it doesn't matter. People are drawn to the car and have a great appreciation for it and I think when you have a car like that, half the fun is to share it with people and not be too elusive. It's like if people get it, then you let them enjoy it with you."

In the last couple of years, Dempsey's personal garage has included a 1972 Jaguar E-Type with a V-12, a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SE convertible, a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, and a Mazda CX-5 with Skyactiv technology, which he had when he was racing the Mazda RX-8 in 2012 in the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series, before the merger between Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series.

But Dempsey says he will not get rid of his first splurge car, a 1963 Porsche 356, which he bought when he first made it in Hollywood, acting in the 1987 movie "Can't Buy Me Love."

"'Can't Buy Me Love' allowed me to buy the 356 Porsche," Dempsey says. "The Porsche became the daily driver for at least 15, 16 years. I shot the movie and when I came back from shooting movie in Tucson, I ended up buying that car. It was on street, and the woman who was doing the sound for 'Top Gun' was selling it. So I ended up buying it off the street from her. For very little money, I might add. I think it was under 10 grand. I still have it. I'll never let go of that car."

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Car he learned to drive in

Growing up in Maine, Dempsey learned to drive in his dad's red 1966 Chevy pickup, which had the shifter on the column. "He had redemptions there where you would bring back and recycle bottles and that would be the truck that you'd do the dump run with," Dempsey recalls. "So I practiced driving in the field and then on this dirt road down to the dump, where we'd drop off the boxes. I was allowed to drive that down and back. So that's how I got to learn how to drive. And the good thing was you could really drift on the dirt roads in that thing. "

First car bought

The first car Dempsey bought was an early-1970s diesel Mercedes-Benz. "It was right when I was getting out of high school and I was performing a lot so I finally had enough money to buy it from one of the neighbors," Dempsey says. "The only problem was, in the winter, it was getting that thing to start. If you didn't have it plugged in, it would never turn over. But it's amazing how far the diesels have come since then."

Favorite road trip

"You know what I'm really enjoying right now is when we get the entire family in the car and we drive together and I get more of those because you get everybody in there and everybody has to react and get along," he says. "I remember those as a kid and now as an adult having children, I think those are the funnest road trips."

Dempsey enjoys driving up the coast of Los Angeles, which includes a trip to a friend's farm. "Pacific Coast Highway is always a fun drive. It was about an hour drive and it was just fun to get everybody in there communicating. Everybody was in a very upbeat mood because of the excitement and the anticipation of the softball game that we were going to at this farm, which is a tradition every Labor Day. It was just nice to get everybody in the car, and you can't run away and you can't be too distracted."

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Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing

In 2008 Dempsey created a center in Maine in honor of his mother, Amanda, who fought a long battle with ovarian cancer. The center, in Lewiston, provides services and support for those affected by cancer and it includes integrative medicine programs that complement medical treatment, such as Reiki, therapeutic massage and a nutrition program.

Last weekend, the center held its sixth annual bike ride called the Dempsey Challenge. The event raised $1.1 million for the center and it was the first ride held since his mother's passing earlier this year. "All the proceeds go directly in to the center so that we can provide these services for free. Amgen is one of our title sponsors and I do that in the hometown I grew up in. So it's a nice thing and it's good to give back and it's the most fulfilling thing, certainly," Dempsey says.

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