Catching Up With Peter Dempsey
 April 2, 2020| 
  • Series News
Catching Up Dempsey 2020

The Turn 3 Motorsport team owner has a long racing history himself - learn more about how he started racing, the historic 2013 Freedom 100 and how he made the decision to head up a Road to Indy team 

Few Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires team owners can claim the kind of racing DNA that Peter Dempsey can. Most famous for winning the four-wide finish in the 2013 Freedom 100, Dempsey carries on the racing roots begun by his father as he transitions into the role of team owner for Turn 3 Motorsport in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

First Racecar - Formula Ford 1600 2005Raised in a small town outside Dublin, Ireland, Dempsey’s path mirrors that of his well-known father. Longtime junior formula racing team owner Cliff Dempsey formed the team when his own driving career ended in 1989. Cliff Dempsey Racing has captured numerous wins and championship titles over the years, including multiple victories in the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy. In fact, the Dempsey team now runs racing programs for both the Team USA and Team Canada Scholarship programs.

The young Dempsey made his own mark at the Walter Hayes Trophy, First Pro Mazda Win at Road America - 2008 (Interviewed by Rob Howden)capturing a record-tying three wins and five podiums from 2005 to 2015. The aggressive driving style required to score victories suited the young Irishman – and earned him plenty of notice when he arrived in the U.S.

“My older brother raced and I began karting at the age of 8 as well,” said Dempsey. “I fell into it really and had a huge passion for it. I’m a very aggressive driver, so I did quite well in events like the Walter Hayes Trophy – it’s a “win it or bin it” kind of event and I thrive on that. When I came to the States, I made a lot of fans because I was unpredictable, though I fell short in the championship runs. I finished third in Star Mazda, what is now Indy Pro 2000, in 2008 and second in 2009. But I won the most races in the series over those two years and it still opened doors for opportunities.”

INDYCAR Photo 7Dempsey moved up to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, contesting a partial schedule in 2011 and 2012 before signing with Belardi Auto Racing in 2013. With his spotters counseling him on patience, Dempsey was barely in the picture as Gabby Chaves, Sage Karam and Carlos Munoz went three-wide through Turn Four on the final lap. But he found the opening he was looking for and drafted his way to victory by 0.0026 seconds – eclipsed only by Dean Stoneman and Ed Jones’ finish in 2016 as the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It was such an intense race, with four of us going at it. I just sat at the back and my spotters kept reminding me to be patient and for once I finally listened to someone! When they went three-wide, they were stuck in their lane with no draft, while I had the ability to put my car wherever I wanted. I got a good run coming off Turn Four and they were so focused on each other so there was nothing Gabby could do. I was lucky to have just that much more momentum and my feeling was that if there was room, I was going to go for it.”

Dempsey eventually moved away from the full-time driving side of racing, starting Turn 3 Motorsport as a driver coaching business. Some of the groundwork he laid in those early days set him up for the decision to become a team owner.

Pro Mazda at Road Atlanta - 2009“I drove for Ricardo [Juncos] in 2009 and we built a very good relationship. I didn’t race in 2010 so I coached for him from 2010 to 2017, helping at private tests and race weekends. Even when I was racing in Indy Lights, I would go down and help the team when I could. Ricardo gave me a great opportunity, coaching and test driving. I had a good understanding of the cars from my background with my dad’s race team and from my time as a driver, and one of my strongest points was getting the car in the optimal setup window.

"From coaching, Ricardo promoted me to assistant engineer in Indy Pro 2000, then lead engineer in 2016, moving up to engineer and coach with Kyle Kaiser alongside Ernesto Gonella when we won the Indy Lights title in 2017. That year, I learned a lot working directly with Ernie, and he is the one that I look up to when it comes to racing and engineering. I progressed the most during those eight years and through that is where I understood that I had the knowledge to someday have my own team.”

RTI_STL_082019_C_0661Dempsey, who lives in suburban Chicago, met Antoine Comeau and Eric Wagner at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., in 2016. He coached them in the Radical series among his other duties (which at the time included working with Houston-based DEForce Racing’s four Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship drivers) and eventually began running their cars at the track. Comeau bought a new Tatuus PM-18 and relied on Dempsey to set the new car up through 2018. By the start of 2019, Comeau and Wagner knew everything they needed to know about Dempsey and asked to make the partnership formal. Dempsey took the name of his coaching company, Turn 3 Motorsport, and formed his own race team.

Comeau, the Montreal native who is a partner in a Chicago options Pit Stop - Thunderhill 2019trading firm, began racing Radicals at Autobahn, then moved up to do some events in the national series. Turn 3 Motorsport began competing in the 2019 Radical Cup North American, with Comeau contesting the SR3 1500 class and Wagner the 1340 class. The team took the series by storm, winning both the driver and team championships in both series and the overall championship.

But while the team was making its name known in the sports car classes, Turn 3 and Comeau were also taking a big step forward, making their Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires debut at Mid-Ohio. At the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in late 2018, Turn 3 set the quick time with the help of 2017 Indy Pro 2000 champion Victor Franzoni, who tested the car during the two-day test. Turn 3 plans to continue to utilize other Road to Indy drivers to work with Comeau as he manages the steep racing learning curve.

“Antoine has a huge passion for extracting the most out of himself, whether it’s in business or racing. He likes the challenge of competing with these young kids! We felt that Indy Pro 2000 was the best platform for us coming from the Radical Cup and I was very comfortable with the series, so that’s the direction we went. He’s improving every week but it’s a very high level of drivers in this series. That’s why it was great to have Victor involved with our team from 2018-2019. He has a great work ethic, understands motorsport and knows how to get the most out of a car. He really helped both Antoine and Eric. We are planning to have Indy Lights driver Toby Sowery work with Antoine this year to help him continue to improve as a driver.”

Team -Thunderhill 2019

Comeau scored three top-10 finishes in seven races in Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 while he was capturing the Radical Cup title. But the team wasn’t ready to give up racing as 2019 came to an end. In only its second NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, the team dominated to bring home an impressive victory.

“Eric loves endurance racing and Thunderhill is really the best entry level endurance race. There is such a variety of cars running the race. The expectations really caught us off guard in 2018, there was so much involved. We started on pole and finished sixth but we were so much better prepared last year. It’s such a challenging event, you have to focus on your own race and execute your program. We led the race for nearly 24 of the 25 hours, and to win it in our second try is our greatest achievement to date.”le he was capturing the Radical Cup title. But the team wasn’t ready to give up racing as 2019 came to an end. In only its second NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, the team dominated to bring home an impressive victory.

RTI_StP_032020__0286The team joined the rest of the Indy Pro 2000 series at the Homestead test in early March, but the increasing Covid-19 crisis sent Comeau back to his trading team in Chicago. Dempsey drafted Road to Indy veteran Lucas Kohl for the season opener in St. Pete, which was eventually postponed. Dempsey now waits out the enforced off season at home with his family, making plans for his team’s work schedule.

“We might try rotating crew into the shop starting next week so that we have two very well-prepped cars ready to go. We’re working hard to keep Lucas on the team, he’d be a very good teammate for Antoine and I think he’ll flourish in our family environment. I’m catching up on a lot of RTI - Week 1 - 3 Dempsey lap1-Lpaperwork at the moment. We’re working on the cars, backing up everything we’ve done through the winter. And it looks like we’ll be doing a lot of iRacing while we’re self-isolating! (note: Dempsey started on pole in the Ricmotech RTI eSeries race last weekend). It’s nice to spend time with my family (wife Mandy, 3-year-old son and 8-month-old daughter) and it’s made me appreciate my wife just that much more, since she works for Turn 3 and takes care of the kids every day!”

 

Photo credit:

2013 Indy Lights photos by INDYCAR Phot

Thunderhill 2019 photos by Doug Berger

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